Ivory-seeking poachers have killed 100,000 African elephants in just three years, according to a new study that provides the first reliable continent-wide estimates of illegal kills. During 2011 alone, roughly one of every twelve African elephants was killed by a poacher.
In central Africa, the hardest-hit part of the continent, the regional elephant population has declined by 64 percent in a decade, a finding of the new study that supports another recent estimate developed from field surveys.
The demand for ivory, most notably in China and elsewhere in Asia, and the confusion caused by a one-time sale of confiscated ivory have helped keep black market prices high in Africa.
The new study, published in the August 19 issue ofProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, led by George Wittemyer of Colorado State University, included local and regional population estimates and concluded that three-quarters of local elephant populations are declining.
PHOTOGRAPH BY BRENT STIRTON, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC/GETTY IMAGES
One of the largest mass elephant slaughters in decades took place in Bouba Ndjidah National Park, Cameroon, in 2012. Armed with grenades and AK-47s, poachers killed more than 300.