Poachers have killed two-thirds of Africa's forest elephants in ten years

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Despite great efforts made to protect endangered species in the early years of this century, conservationists say that, given current trends, some of the most iconic animals on the planet still aren't likely to see the next.

While it's no secret that the illegal ivory trade continues to run rampant in parts of Africa, researchers are alarmed to find one elephant species in particular teetering so close to extinction from poaching. According to a new study, African forest elephants, native to the jungles of the Congo Basin, have experienced a decline of 62 percent in just the last ten years alone -- needlessly slaughtered for their ivory tusks.

At the UN international wildlife summit underway in Bangkok, conservation scientists warn that if the rate of poaching continues, African forest elephants could be wiped out within a generation.

"The analysis confirms what conservationists have feared: the rapid trend towards extinction – potentially within the next decade – of the forest elephant," Dr. Samantha Strindberg, a Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) scientist and one of the study's lead-authors, tells the Guardian.

Although all elephant species in Africa have experience significant declines in recent decades, researchers say that the forest elephants have been hit especially hard from poaching violence. The species' long, straight tusks are a favorite among ivory traders, and easy-access to guns in the poorly governed region has only served to spur illegal hunting.

Study co-author and WCS scientist Dr. Fiona Maisels tells BBC News that the elephant's rapid decline and likely extinction can only be prevented through international cooperation.

"Reducing chronic corruption and improving poor law enforcement, which facilitate poaching and trade, are crucial. It is also vital to improve control of import and sales of wildlife goods by the recipient and transit countries of illegal ivory, especially in Asia," says Maisels.

"The recipient nations, with the international community, should invest heavily in public education and outreach to inform consumers of the ramifications of the ivory trade."

Via BBC News

See also: Fukushima radiation reveals migratory habits of Pacific bluefin tuna

Tags: Africa | Animals | Endangered Species | Extinction

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