Elephant conservation in Africa | WWF

Elephant conservation in Africa

Geographical location:

Africa/Madagascar > Central Africa > Cameroon

Africa/Madagascar > Central Africa > Central African Republic
Africa/Madagascar > Central Africa > Congo
Africa/Madagascar > Central Africa > Democratic Republic of Congo (Zaïre)
Africa/Madagascar > Central Africa > Equatorial Guinea
Africa/Madagascar > Central Africa > Gabon
Africa/Madagascar > East Africa > Burundi
Africa/Madagascar > East Africa > Ethiopia
Africa/Madagascar > East Africa > Kenya
Africa/Madagascar > East Africa > Rwanda
Africa/Madagascar > East Africa > Tanzania
Africa/Madagascar > East Africa > Uganda
Africa/Madagascar > Southern Africa > Botswana
Africa/Madagascar > Southern Africa > Malawi
Africa/Madagascar > Southern Africa > Mozambique
Africa/Madagascar > Southern Africa > Namibia
Africa/Madagascar > Southern Africa > Republic of South Africa
Africa/Madagascar > Southern Africa > Swaziland
Africa/Madagascar > Southern Africa > Zambia
Africa/Madagascar > Southern Africa > Zimbabwe
Africa/Madagascar > West Africa > Benin
Africa/Madagascar > West Africa > Burkina Faso
Africa/Madagascar > West Africa > Ghana
Africa/Madagascar > West Africa > Guinea
Africa/Madagascar > West Africa > Guinea-Bissau
Africa/Madagascar > West Africa > Ivory Coast
Africa/Madagascar > West Africa > Liberia
Africa/Madagascar > West Africa > Mali
Africa/Madagascar > West Africa > Nigeria
Africa/Madagascar > West Africa > Sierra Leone
Africa/Madagascar > West Africa > Togo

African/Forest elephant hybrid (Loxodonta africana/a. cyclotis) on their trail, Dzanga-Sangha Special Reserve, Central African Republic.
© WWF-Canon / Homo ambiens/R.Isotti-A.Cambone


African elephants are the world’s largest terrestrial mammals. Although elephant numbers have recovered from record lows in the 1980s – today there are an estimated 470,000 and 690,000 elephants in Africa – many populations are still threatened by poaching for their ivory and habitat loss.

Significant elephant populations are now found in well protected areas. However, less than 20% of the elephant’s range is under formal protection. WWF aims to conserve elephant populations across Africa by supporting projects that improve protection and management, build capacity within range states, mitigate human-elephant conflict and reduce illegal trade.


African elephant numbers are thought to have declined from 3-5 million in the 1930s and 1940s to some 1.3 million in 1979, down to about 632,000 in 1989 and possibly fewer than 500,000 by 1998.

There continues to be a rapid rate of decline in the extent and quality of elephant range and habitats as more land is converted for human use. In total, elephant range declined from 7.3 million km2 in 1979 to 5.9 million km2 in 1987 and to 5.7 million km2 by 1998. Of the remaining range, almost 80% falls outside protected area (PA) systems.

As elephant habitat continues to contract, PA systems are likely to be amongst the last secure refuges for elephants. This means that management for broader biodiversity goals and law enforcement within the PAs will have to be significantly improved.

Many African countries are unaware of the size, distribution and trends of their national elephant herds and essential management information is currently unavailable for many key populations.

Assistance in completing a census of these herds and in developing reliable national or sub-regional databases is important, as is using these data to manage national elephant herds.

To enable conservation initiatives, elephant management skills need to be developed and implemented across the range of the African elephant. Such skills should be made available not only to government management authorities but also to private game conservancies and community-managed wildlife areas who will be managing elephant herds.

One pertinent issue is developing governments' capacities to implement the CITES co-ordinated programme to Monitor the Illegal Killing of Elephants (MIKE). In addition, it appears that many more ivory seizures are occurring than are being reported to the CITES Secretariat through the Elephant Trade Information System (ETIS) data collection process. There is a need to promote better understanding about the requirements of ETIS and to support the development of national-level data collection protocols.

Elephants can have major impacts on many of the African countries in which WWF has programmes. Because of their damage to human life and property and their degradation of habitats, local people and decision-makers living further afield develop negative attitudes towards elephants. But there are also potential benefits from elephants, including the income from tourism and, in some states, the sustainable use of elephant products.

WWF not only has policy interests in elephants, but also a need to develop an independent conservation strategy which is consistent with regional goals (and WWF's global goals) and which is supportive of the conservation objectives of the field programme and its sub-regional elements. The AEP also needs to contribute to WWF's Species Target-Driven Programme.


The long-term goal of the programme, over 25 years, is the conservation of viable populations of forest and savanna elephants in at least 10 range states in Africa.

Specific objectives

1. Protection and Management: conservation and management of at least 10 elephant populations improved.

2. Capacity Building: capacity of governments and other stakeholders to conserve and manage elephants enhanced in at least 10 range states.

3. Conflict Mitigation: human-elephant conflict mitigated in at least 10 sites across Africa.

4. Trade Controls: measures to control the illegal trade in elephant products are enhanced in at least 6 range states.


1. Protection and Management

1.1 Well-equipped and trained law enforcement teams conducting regular and effective anti-poaching patrols in 10 sites by 2005.
1.2 At least 4 new protected areas established within elephant range by 2005.
1.3 management effectiveness (as defined by appropriate indicators) improved in at least 4 PAs with viable elephant populations by 2005.
1.4 New community-based wildlife management schemes that contribute to elephant conservation developed at 4 sites by 2005.
1.5 The population status of elephants determined in at least 10 sites across Africa by 2005.

2. Capacity Building

2.1 Range state governments produce and adopt 1 sub-regional elephant conservation strategy and at least 3 national elephant conservation strategies by 2005.
2.2 Capacity to survey, census and monitor elephant populations developed in at least 10 sites by 2003.
2.3 Training in elephant conservation and management techniques provided to relevant stakeholders in at least 10 sites by 2005.
2.4 In at least 2 range states legislation to protect elephants is updated and enforced by 2005.

3. Conflict Mitigation

3.1 Wildlife managers and local communities working with modern human elephant conflict (HEC) methods and tools at 10 sites by 2005.

4. Trade Controls

4.1 Trends in the illegal trade in elephant products are actively monitored and assessed in at least 3 range states by 2005.
4.2 information is available on the domestic ivory markets in 3 range states by November 2002.

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