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The work, published by the American Academy of Science (PNAS), highlights that the populations of these mammals are falling at a rate of 2% annually, a decline that exceeds their ability to reproduce. "Basically, this means that we are beginning to lose the species, "explained lead author George Wittemyer, assistant professor in the department of fisheries, wildlife, and conservation biology at Colorado State University.
Although the number of elephants living in the wild is difficult to calculate, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) estimates that there are between 470,000 and 690,000 of these animals on the African continent.
The study indicates that the annual rate of elephants illegally hunted between 2010 and 2012 in relation to the existing population of these animals in Africa was 6.8%, representing a total of 33,630 animals killed by poachers in those three years .
Although hunting decreased slightly in 2012, the numbers are still too high, leading to a decline in populations of between 2-3% per year, after accounting for reproduction rates. Central Africa, Tanzania and Mozambique are the areas most affected by the poaching, the authors of the investigation specify.
In Central Africa alone, elephant populations decreased by 63.7% between 2002 and 2012. According to the report, illegal hunting increases especially when the price of ivory exceeds $ 30 per kilo.
One of the factors that partly explains the increase in hunting is its high price in countries such as China, which tripled between 2010 and 2014, from $ 750 to $ 2,100 per kilo, indicate data from the Save the Elephants organization ( save the elephants).
At the beginning of the 20th century, there were 20 million elephants in Africa but their number fell to only 1.2 million in 1980. Despite the fact that their hunting was prohibited in 1989, currently only 500,000 of these animals remain, according to figures from the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species.