In 1930, there were between 5 and 10 million African elephants. The Africa elephants were added to the international list of the most endangered species in 1984. By then, there were only about 600.000 remaining. This is less than 1% of their original number. Asian elephants are even more endangered than African elephants. At the turn of the century, there were an estimated 200.000 Asian elephants. Today there are probably no more than 35.000 to 40.000 left in the wild.
Humans have become the biggest threat. Elephants are mainly threatened because of their ivory and habitat loss. Ivory is known as ‘white gold’ because it is beautiful, easily carved and durable. Most of the world's ivory is carved in Japan, Hong Kong, and other Asian countries. Skilled carvers depend on a supply of ivory for their livelihoods.
Even thought hunting elephants is no longer legal in many African countries, poaching was widespread until very recently. As the price of ivory raised, poachers became more organized, using automatic weapons, motorized vehicles and airplanes. Thousands of elephants have been killed because of poaching. Poaching has caused the collapse of elephants social structure, as well as decimating their numbers. The worst thing of the poaching is that the poachers often kill all the adults in the group, leaving young elephants without any adults to raise them.
The African government now takes action to protect the elephants. The main reason they are takinh action, is because they have realised elephants are very important for the economy of Africa. A lot of tourists visit Africa because of the elephants.