African forest elephants are being poached out of existence. A new study with of largest dataset on forest elephants ever compiled reveals a loss of more than 60% in the past decade, due to slaughtering them for their ivory tusks. The decline is documented throughout forest elephant’s range in Cameroon, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, and Republic of Congo.

Distinct from the African savannah elephant, the African forest elephant is slightly smaller than its better known relative and is considered by many to be a separate species. They play a vital role in maintaining the biodiversity of one of the Earth’s critical carbon sequestering tropical forests.

Fiona Maisels, of the Wildlife Conservation Society, says, "We don’t have much time before elephants are gone. Saving the species requires a coordinated global effort in the countries where elephants occur–all along the ivory smuggling routes, and at the final destination in the Far East." The study shows that almost a third of the land where African forest elephants were able to live 10 years ago has become too dangerous for them.

Samantha Strindberg, also of the WCS, says, "The analysis confirms what conservationists have feared: the rapid trend towards extinction–potentially within the next decade–of the forest elephant."

Animal researcher John Hart says, "Historically, elephants ranged right across the forests of this vast region of over 772,000 square miles, but now cower in just a quarter of that area. Although the forest cover remains, it is empty of elephants, demonstrating that this is not a habitat degradation issue. This is almost entirely due to poaching."

Elephant expert Lee White says, "A rain forest without elephants is a barren place. They bring it to life, they create the trails and keep open the forest clearings other animals use; they disperse the seeds of many of the rainforest trees–elephants are forest gardeners at a vast scale. Their calls reverberate through the trees reminding us of the grandeur of primeval nature. If we do not turn the situation around quickly the future of elephants in Africa is doomed. These new results illustrate starkly just how dramatic the situation has become. Our actions over the coming decade will determine whether this iconic species survives."

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