Killed for their ivory
The forest elephants of West and Central Africa are in a desperate situation. Cruelly slaughtered by poachers, their numbers fell by a massive 65% in just over a decade.
Due to the greed and corruption of international criminal gangs, these majestic creatures are being confined to ever-smaller areas of West and Central Africa. They are now in danger of being poached to near-extinction.
Meet the forest elephant
Forest elephants are smaller than their cousins, the savannah elephants of East and Southern Africa, and many scientists now consider them a separate species.
They live in small family groups and are most often found in the tropical and sub-tropical rainforests and woodlands of Central and West Africa.
To supplement their diet, forest elephants seek out mineral-rich waterholes and ‘mineral licks’ - areas of soil that contain concentrated minerals.
As a result of the minerals they eat, forest elephants have tusks with a pink tinge, in contrast to the cream-coloured tusks of the savannah elephants in East and Southern Africa.
This pink ivory is highly prized in the Japanese market, where the ivory trade continues to flourish. The deadly demand for pink ivory makes forest elephants a target for wildlife traffickers.
A tragedy for the rainforest and the climate
Forest elephants play a crucial role in maintaining the world’s second largest rainforest. Often called the ‘mega gardeners’ of the forest, these elephants are the most efficient seed-dispersers in their habitats. They eat the seeds of many precious and key hardwood trees, which rely on their journey through an elephant’s gut to start the germination process.
By helping to preserve the hardwood trees in the rainforest that are critical for the capture of carbon, forest elephants are our allies in defending against climate change.
Put simply, the forest landscape of West and Central Africa would face a bleak future without elephants.
What’s more, by maintaining the biodiversity of the forest, the elephants are also supporting a vital wildlife habitat for many other species, including critically endangered gorillas, okapi and chimpanzees, as well as leopards, monkeys and pangolins, and thousands of birds.
30 years of fighting for elephants
We’re currently celebrating the 30th anniversary of the landmark international ban on the elephant ivory trade. Our report, ‘A System of Extinction: The African Elephant Disaster’, was instrumental in securing this ban.
Since then, we’ve worked consistently to:
- Identify the trans-national criminal groups behind the trafficking of illegal ivory
- Expose corruption
- Shut down the ivory trade.
Now that international criminal gangs are closing in on forest elephants, we’re hard on their trail.
We’re starting a new phase of work to expose and disrupt the syndicates that are trafficking forest elephant ivory.
This work is difficult and dangerous, but we’re determined to do everything we can to disrupt the ivory trafficking networks.
How you can help forest elephants
We’ve worked consistently to tighten the net on the illegal poaching of elephants in East and Southern Africa. Now please help us protect the threatened forest elephants of West and Central Africa and their habitat before it’s too late.
With your help, our investigators can carry out their vital work to combat the wildlife traffickers targeting forest elephants, along with other endangered species such as pangolins and tigers. We’ve proved that our approach works, but we urgently need your support.