With a height of over 11 feet at the shoulder, and weighing upwards of 6 tons, elephants are the largest terrestrial animal.
It is widely accepted that there are two species, the African elephant and the Asian elephant. Within these species, there are several subspecies. For the African elephant, these include the savanna elephant and the forest elephant. For the Asian elephant, these include the Borneo pygmy elephant, the Sri Lankan elephant, the Sumatran elephant, and the Indian elephant.
Image Credit: Will Shirley on Unsplash
VU – Vulnerable
EN – Endangered
Population & Range
On August 31, 2016, results from the Great Elephant Census were published.
The final results (as defined on the Great Elephant Census website) show:
- “Savanna elephant populations declined by 30 percent (equal to 144,000 elephants) between 2007 and 2014.
- The current rate of decline is 8 percent per year, primarily due to poaching. The rate of decline accelerated from 2007 to 2014.
- 352,271 elephants were counted in the 18 countries surveyed. This figure represents at least 93 percent of savanna elephants in these countries.
- Eighty-four percent of the population surveyed was sighted in legally protected areas while 16 percent were in unprotected areas. However, high numbers of elephant carcasses were discovered in many protected areas, indicating that elephants are struggling both inside and outside parks.”1
The current range for the African elephant includes, Angola, Botswana, Northern Cameroon, Chad, Northeast Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, South AFrica, Tanzania, Uganda, W-Arli-Pendjari Complex (includes Niger, Burkina Faso and Benin), Zambia, and Zimbabwe.2
Map Credit: IUCN Red List
According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the Asian elephant population is estimated at 41,410-52,345.3 However, the available data is outdated, and the overall population trend is downward.
The current range for the Asian elephant includes, “Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, and Sri Lanka in South Asia, and Cambodia, China, Indonesia (Kalimantan and Sumatra) Lao PDR, Malaysia (Peninsular Malaysia and Sabah), Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam in South-east Asia.”4
Map Credit: IUCN Red List
Top Threats to Elephants
An estimated 27,000 elephants are poached every year for their ivory, with key markets in China, the United States, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam.
Habitat loss and fragmentation are the most pressing threats to elephants.
Habitat fragmentation confines elephants to smaller patches of land, leading to human-elephant conflict.
1 & 2 Great Elephant Census. 2016. Great Elephant Census Final Results. http://www.greatelephantcensus.com/final-report. Accessed on 23 October 2017.
3 & 4 Choudhury, A., Lahiri Choudhury, D.K., Desai, A., Duckworth, J.W., Easa, P.S., Johnsingh, A.J.T., Fernando, P., Hedges, S., Gunawardena, M., Kurt, F., Karanth, U., Lister, A., Menon, V., Riddle, H., Rübel, A. & Wikramanayake, E. (IUCN SSC Asian Elephant Specialist Group). 2008. Elephas maximus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2008: e.T7140A12828813. http://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2008.RLTS.T7140A12828813.en. Downloaded on 24 October 2017.
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