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Elephants at Risk

CLOSE ENCOUNTER Two African forest elephants have a bath in the Central African Republic in April 2019. The species is critically endangered. FLORNET VERGNES—AFP/GETTY IMAGES

African elephants are becoming more endangered, according to a March 25 report by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The group looks at animal populations to determine how likely they are to become extinct.

There are two species of African elephant. Savanna elephants roam open grasslands. Forest elephants live in wooded areas. Both are in trouble.

Over the past 50 years, the savanna elephant population has fallen by 60%. The IUCN lists the animal as endangered. The forest elephant population has declined by more than 86% over 31 years. The forest elephant is now listed as critically endangered. Today, Africa has about 415,000 elephants.

The last time the IUCN looked at African elephants was in 2008. Back then, both species of elephant were grouped in one category and listed as vulnerable. That’s the category before endangered.

Experts say the main threats to elephants are poaching and habitat loss. IUCN director general Bruno Oberle hopes the report inspires governments and individuals to take action. “Africa’s elephants play key roles in ecosystems, economies, and in our collective imagination all over the world,” he says.

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