The International Union of Conservation of Nature is a group that is working to conserve nature and use natural resources wisely. They maintain a comprehensive list of animals that are endangered called the Red List of Threatened Species. They assess animals and plants to see where they land on the scale from “Least Concerned” to “Extinct”. This list not only identifies the species that are most in danger of becoming extinct, it also gives advice on what needs to be done to prevent further decline. Let’s take a look at how elephants fair on the list and how many elephants are left in the world today.
How Many Elephants Are Left int the World
The short answer is that there are at least 463,571 elephants in the world. While that number looks precise, there are of course many considerations to take into account, and there are vast differences between the populations of African and Asian elephants.
Keep in mind that while there may be slightly less than half a million elephant in the world today, this total is down dramatically from historical levels. In fact, it’s estimated that 10 million elephants may have lived on the African continent in the 1930s.
Go back even further to the 1500s and the population of African elephants may have reached as high as 26 million! Likewise, the Asian elephant now occupies less than 15% of its historical range and is incredibly fragmented. It is likely that elephant populations across the world are down up to 95 to 99% from their historic peaks experienced just 500 years ago.
How Many African Elephants Are Left in The World?
As we noted above, there were once up to 26 million elephants across Africa. So the question is, how many African elephants are live today? The most recent estimates point to 415,428 African elephants remaining, but that’s across two separate species on the continent. Let’s examine each individually.
African bush elephant population
These elephants are listed as Endangered with a population trend that is decreasing. The latest research count was done in 2016, the African Elephant Status Report estimated 415,428 elephants living in Africa. This is a combined number of African bush and African forest elephants. The biggest threat to the savanna elephant is the poaching for ivory. The ivory is prized for being used to make carvings, jewelry, piano keys, billiard balls, flatware handles and much more.
African forest elephant population
African forest elephants are listed as Critically Endangered with a population trend that is decreasing. As mentioned above the count of these elephants were combined with the larger bush elephants for a count of 415,428, so it is difficult to know for sure how many of the forest species are left. The savanna elephants are easier to document because they live out in the open on the grasslands whereas the forest elephants can hide in the dense rainforests. The biggest threat to the forest elephant also is poaching for ivory.
Asian Elephant Populations
Asian elephants are listed as Endangered with a population trend that is decreasing. The latest count of Asian elephants was in 2018 with an estimate of 48,323–51,680. But due to the fact that some Asian elephants also live in dense rainforests it is more difficult to obtain an accurate count. The breakout by country shows that India has the most elephants with a count of 29,964. The biggest threat to these elephants is habitat loss, human conflict, poaching and illegal trade. Since female Asian elephants don’t have long tusks you would think they would be more protected but there has been an increase in trade of other elephant body parts like their skin.
The skin is being used to make jewelry that is said to have good-luck. The conflict between humans and elephants is also a major threat to the Asian elephants. The more humans encroach on their habitats the more incidents of confrontation occur.
What can be done to help elephants?
There are two conservation acts that are in place to help maintain the elephant populations. The African Elephant Conservation Act that focuses on enforcing laws against ivory imports and the Asian Elephant Conservation Act gives money to conservation initiatives in Asian countries. Two things you can do to help elephants are to never buy anything made from ivory and to educate others about elephants and their important role in our ecosystem!
The photo featured at the top of this post is © Neil Tyers/Shutterstock.com
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