Every year, approximately 35,000 African elephants are killed for their ivory. If this trend continues, African elephants could be extinct in the wild in as few as 20 years.
Ivory is a lucrative source of financing for terrorist groups like the Lord's Resistance Army, which has inflicted mass violence in central Africa. Another example is the Somalian wing of Al Qaeda, Al-Shabab, which reportedly pulls in USD$600,000 a month from poaching.
Elephant populations were actually on the rise as recently as a decade ago, in the wake of a 1989 global ban on the ivory trade. After that measure met with some success, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) allowed for a “one-off” sale in 2008, permitting Chinese and Japanese markets to trade ivory obtained prior to 1989. This unintentionally resulted in the rejuvenation of the ivory trade, given the great difficulty in determining what ivory was obtained before 1989 and what was obtained after. Poaching has now become a worse problem than it was prior to the 1989 ban.
In 2014, the National Geographic Society named investigative journalist Bryan Christy the Explorer of the Year. His efforts to combat international wildlife trafficking have been lauded as one of ten ways National Geographic has changed the world.
Elephants are born weighing approximately 90 kilograms, but can grow to be 2,000 to 6,000 kilograms as an adult—and can eat over 100 kilograms of food a day.
Elephants spray dust over their skin in order to avoid getting burned by the sun, as well as to protect themselves from insects.
Elephants' trunks can grow to be up to two metres long, and weigh up to 180 kilograms. Scientists believe they may have evolved to allow elephants, who were once aquatic creatures, to breathe underwater—meaning their trunk was effectively a snorkel.
Herds are composed of adult females and pre-adolescent elephants of both sexes – with one adult female serving as the leader. Male elephants leave the herd upon reaching adulthood, either to wander alone or to join a bachelor herd.
Garamba National Park hired a security consultant in 2012 to teach its rangers an advanced anti-poaching course, which has allowed for the creation of a Rapid Response Unit intended to confront poaching and security threats quickly and effectively.
The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust has raised and released over 150 orphaned elephants back into the wild herds of Tsavo East National Park.