The slow but steady extinction of elephants

The gestation period of an elephant is nearly two years (22 months). After the baby is born, they drink milk from the mother`s breast for a period of between 5 and 10 years. With 17 years, they reach sexual maturity. The life span of an elephant is somewhere between 60 and 70 years, that is if everything goes well for them.

In 1930 there were between 5 to 10 million wild African elephants, in 1980 the African elephant population was estimated to be around 1.3 million and today the number is less than 500.000.

Why this huge decline in such a short period of time?

Illegal Ivory Trade:

The high demand for ivory in the nineteenth and twentieth century has led to illegal poaching and thus the endangerment of this beautiful mammal. During the colonisation of Africa, ivory was removed and used for piano keys and billiard balls. Glad to say the piano industry abandoned ivory as a  key covering material in the 1970s. Today, Ivory is mostly used to produce jewellery, arts and crafts. For many it is a way to portray their wealth.

Poaching of African elephants for ivory has reached a dramatic stage. In 2012, The New York Times  reported on a large upsurge in ivory poaching with about 70% illegally imported into China.

China, Japan, Vietnam, and The Philippines are among the highest importers of African Ivory. Poverty and high unemployment rate in many African countries has not helped the situation either. Many unemployed citizens are ready to kill an elephant illegally, remove its tusk and sell it to anyone ready to buy for the sum of about 200 dollars.

In 2013 a single seizure  in Guangzhou in China brought to light 1,913 tusks, the result of about 1,000 dead elephants and rhinos.

Conservationist working to save elephants tend to concentrate on reducing or eliminating poaching while nothing or very little is said about trophy hunting of elephants. Though many will argue that trophy hunters bring in money that is then used to fight against the extinction of these animals..

Countries like Kenya and Tanzania are working hard to fight against elephant poaching while other countries like Zimbabwe, South Africa and Botswana reckon trade in Ivory should be regulated not prohibited arguing that countries that are managing their elephants well should be allowed to sell ivory in order to pay for conservation measures.

Some countries even set examples and burned down all illegal ivory that was confiscated from poachers.


Huge pile of elephant tusks confiscated by the government of Kenya from locals and foreigners alike and burned at Nairobi National Park.


Thanks to some educational programs, the interest in Ivory in china is slowly declining. The Chinese government even announced on banning all commerce in ivory by the end of 2017. Wildlife researchers estimates that more than 100.000 elephants have been wiped out in Africa over the past 10 years in the ruthless hunt for ivory driven by the high demand of ivory in china. If this ban materialises, it will help to drastically reduce the mass slaughter of elephants.




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