The African elephant population has declined by 95% in the past century.
Experts estimate that fewer than 400,000 remain. Poaching for ivory is the main cause for this decline. Recent research indicates that poaching has gradually declined in eastern and southern Africa, but poaching remains high in Central Africa. Experts note that the gradual decline may indicate that conservation efforts are paying off, but nevertheless, warn that there is still an overall, continent-wide elephant population decline.
Experts say the wild giraffe is facing a “silent extinction.” Their population has declined by an alarming 40% in the past forty years yet until recently, it was largely unnoticed by media outlets, governments, and even many conservationist organizations.
That’s the estimated number of African rhinos. In the spring of 2018, the last male northern white rhino, named Sudan, passed away. He lived with two females, Fatu and Najin, at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya. They were the last three northern white rhinos on the planet and had to be protected by armed guards 24/7. Now, only two females remain, and barring a scientific miracle, we likely lose this subspecies to extinction.
Other species of rhinos are also in dire straits. The African rhinoceros population has shrunk to around 25,000. Like elephants, poaching is the primary cause for the population decline. Illegal trafficking in rhino horn is lucrative, and while the numbers of rhinos poached in South Africa have declined in recent years, the levels of poaching remain unsustainable.
Big cats are in big trouble. Only around 20,000 African lions remain in the wild, down from an estimated 450,000 population in the 1940s. Experts estimate that we have lost 43% of them in the last twenty-one years. Cheetahs, the fastest land mammals on earth, are also in big trouble and dangerously close to extinction. A new study found that only about 7,100 remain in the wild, a population loss of 90% since 1900.
Threats to the African lion include habitat loss, human-animal conflict, loss of prey, and trophy hunting. Threats to the cheetah population include habitat loss, human-animal conflict, and illegal wildlife trafficking. Both species face extinction within the next twenty years if the current rates of decline continue.