Background on Elephants from IUCN Elephant Specialists Groups
The most recent continent-wide compilation of African elephant (Loxodonta africana) numbers dates back to 2007, when there were at least half a million elephants in Africa, and perhaps as many as 700,000, spread over some 3.3 million km², an area slightly larger than India. New survey data on African elephant populations are currently being analyzed by the IUCN/SSC African Elephant Specialist Group and entered into the new African and Asian Elephant Database (http://elephantdatabase.org), and an insight on elephant numbers is expected later this year.
Listed in Appendix I of CITES and categorized as ‘endangered’ on the IUCN Red List of Threatened SpeciesTM, the global Asian elephant population is estimated at around 30,000-50,000, with a geographical range of around 878,600 km² (an area smaller than Pakistan), which is only 10% of the historical range
Background on the Ivory Trade
The international trade in elephant ivory was banned by the Conference of the Parties to CITES in 1989. The CITES Parties have twice relaxed the ban since, first in 1999 to allow a “one-off” sale of ivory from Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe to Japan, and again in 2008 to allow further one-off sales from those three countries, plus South Africa, to China and Japan.
As a precondition for the second sale to go ahead, two monitoring systems – ETIS and MIKE – were established to monitor trends in levels of illegal trade in ivory and of illegal killing of elephants respectively. CITES also recognized the role of the IUCN Elephant Specialist Groups, which monitor the status of elephant populations, and UNEP-WCMC, which monitors the legal trade in ivory. Together, these four systems deliver consistent, evidence-based information to assist in CITES decision-making.
Source: CITES + UNEP-WCMC + TRAFFIC-ETIS + IUCN-SSC.