The number of African elephants dropped by about 111,000 in the past decade as a result of poaching, a report released at the Johannesburg conference on the wildlife trade has found.
News of the worst drop in elephant numbers in 25 years came amid disagreement on the second day of the global meeting over the best way to improve the plight of the animals, which are targeted for their tusks.
Based on 275 estimates from across the continent, the report by the IUCN conservation group put Africa’s total elephant population at around 415,000, a decline of around 111,000 over the past decade.
It is the first time in 25 years that the IUCN’s African Elephant Status Report has reported a continental decline in numbers, with the group attributing the losses in large part to a sharp rise in poaching.
“The surge in poaching for ivory that began approximately a decade ago – the worst that Africa has experienced since the 1970s and 1980s – has been the main driver of the decline,” said IUCN.
IUCN chief Inger Andersen said the numbers showed “the truly alarming plight of the majestic elephant”.