How many elephants are killed each year by poachers?

African elephants - Save the ElephantsA recent study by the Colorado State University has calculated that 33,600 African elephants are killed each year by poachers, which results in population decline in the region of 2-3% throughout the continent. The shocking statistics highlight the difficulty conservationists have in protecting African elephant populations with high financial gain for poachers due to significant market demand from Asia.

The details of the study were published recently in the paper, Illegal killing for ivory drives global decline in African elephants, in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States. In addition to the alarming brutality inherent in Elephant poaching, the most disturbing reality of the study is that the findings prove that more Elephants are being killed each year than are being born, which is resulting in the annual population decline.


The study was headed up by professor George Wittemyer of Colorado State University with support from Save the Elephants, and in association with the Kenya Wildlife Service and it includes a 16 year record of the birth and death of every elephant in Samburu in northern Kenya. Combined with a continent wide field research programme, the extensive Samburu data was used to extrapolate data for the entire African elephant population, which resulted in the findings above.

The study also shows that from 2009 onwards, there was a sharp increase in the activity of poachers throughout Africa as the market value of ivory soared by upwards of 4x its previous price. While the destination of the illegal ivory trade is throughout Asia, the majority of it goes to China, according to the further findings of the study.

From this point of view, it’s clear that the governments in charge of the countries that have become large importers of ivory need to do more to both police the illegal trade to cut it off at the source, but also to deliver a programme of activity designed to reduce the growing demand for Elephant tusk products. China in particular needs more rigorous policies and communication campaigns to support the shut down of illegal trade in ivory.

How to get involved in the bid to stop African elephant poaching

There’s a whole lot out there that you can do to help save the African elephant, and indeed for wildlife conservation in general. There are a number of organisations, including the WWF and Save The Elephants, who would be more than happy to exchange your donations for the promise to continue in their bid to protect the world’s biggest land mammal. It’s clear that with the increased attention from poachers due to the inflated price of ivory and demand from the Asian market, elephant conservation is incredibly important.

For more information about Save The Elephants, visit, and for details on the WWF’s work to safeguard the African elephants, you can read more at


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