In the early 1900s African Elephant populations were estimated to be in the millions, while there were around 1oo,000 Asian Elephants. According to World Wildlife Fund, today there are around 700,000 African Elephants in the wild, and just 32,000 Asian Elephants.
In 1989, CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) banned the international ivory trade. Yet poaching for ivory has been steadily increasing, with 800,000 African elephants killed over the last three decades.
An Elephant’s tusk can weigh up to 22 pounds. Each one is worth $10,000-$15,000 on the black market in Asia, where they are used to make everything from billiard balls and piano keys to chopsticks.
In addition to poaching, habitat loss and conflict with human populations are key threats facing Elephant populations. Climate change projections suggest key Elephant habitat will become hotter and drier, so poor foraging conditions may threaten the survival of more calfs in the future.
Most Asian Elephants used in the logging and tourism industries (including those offering rides, performing in circuses, or painting in the streets) have been tortured in a horrifically cruel training regiment known as phajaan. The process involves tying a wild Elephant up for several days, beating them into submission, and leaving them to starve, with the goal of crushing their spirit.
Because they migrate for food according to the seasons, elephants need quite a lot of room to move around and find their food. Not having enough space is detrimental to elephants.
Even though measures have passed aimed at reducing the poaching of elephants for their ivory (which is worth up to $1500 per pound), these animals are still being poached at a faster rate than they can reproduce. Their slow rate of reproduction also contributes to their dwindling population numbers.
In 1989, the U.S. Congress passed the African Elephant Conservation Act, which was aimed at improving elephant African elephant populations. Parts of the act include reducing the ivory trade and supporting African conservation efforts. Unfortunately, the Trump administration reversed a ban on elephant trophy imports in 2017, saying that hunting African elephants in Zimbabwe and Zambia “will enhance the survival of the species in the wild.”
Elephants are instinctively afraid of bees. Wildlife conservationists have used this natural fear to the elephants’ advantage by placing beehives near farms in order to prevent elephants from foraging in those areas. This approach seem to be helping to minimize incidents of human-elephant conflict.