Previously, the African Elephants were classified as a single species. But according to a new IUCN report, that is no longer the case. Instead, there are two different species, the African Forest Elephant and the African Savanna Elephant.
And according to the report, they are now classified as critically endangered and endangered respectively.
Over the last several decades, these elephant populations have been on the decline for a variety of reasons. The forest elephant population has decreased by 86% in the last 31 years.
Whereas the savanna elephant has seen a population reduction of at least 60% over the last 50 years according to the report. The reclassification will play a huge role in ensuring each species gets the proper protection.
What’s the Difference Between Endangered and Critically Endangered?
You may be wondering what exactly the difference between these two terms are.
In most cases, people assume that endangered is the final step, but that’s not the case. The IUCN defines these brackets as:
- Critically Endangered = 8,188 left in the wild
- Endangered = 14,106 left in the wild
That said, being in either of these is very bad. And for reference, the Extinct classification does not mean what you think.
- Extinct = 900 left in the wild
- Extinct in the Wild = 79 left in the wild
These classifications and terminology change regularly, so it can be confusing.
Why Are Elephants on the Decline?
Throughout history, elephants have suffered as a result of poaching.
The ivory trade may be illegal, but the black market has continued to demand the substance. And over the past decade, illegal poaching has been growing as a result of the demand from Asian countries.
In the last year, as a result of Covid-19, poaching has become rampant as anti-poaching could not deploy regular patrols. On top of this, many rangers saw pay decreases and even lost their jobs.
The other major factor is the habitat destruction.
Elephants are big, and they require large environments to thrive. Yet, those habitats are disappearing. In most cases, these large areas are being transformed for agricultural use.
However, in an ironic turn of events, elephants are thriving in Botswana. There are now too many of them in the ecosystem, which may even lead to them legalizing an elephant hunting season.
How Does the Reclassification Help?
By individually separating the species, which was based on genetic information, each species will now be able to receive individual protections.
Obviously, the protection they receive is up to the individual countries, but this should help conserve their habitats. This may also encourage additional funding to help improve anti-poaching efforts.
This also helps raise awareness to the public.
This can help secure additional donations, increase pressure on governments to take action, and make companies and individuals who participate in the ivory trade face harsher punishments.
This is critical because the ivory trade is a global problem, although Asia (specifically China) is the biggest buyer. It will take international unity to put an end to the practice.
Robert has been following and writing about environmental stories for years at GreenGeeks. He believes that highlighting environmentally friendly practices can help promote change in every household.