Up to 15,000 elephants a year are still being killed for their tusks

Every day across Africa, poachers kill elephants to meet demand for ivory products in Asia, the U.S. and other markets. Poaching rates have fallen from a peak of more than 30,000 elephants a year around a decade ago, and the latest estimate by the CITES programme for Monitoring the Illegal Killing of Elephants (MIKE) showed poaching in 2020 fell to its lowest levels since 2003. That's certainly good news, but poaching is still unsustainably high, especially in some areas.

A century ago, ten million elephants roamed Africa; today, the number is thought to be around 415,000. Populations of forest elephants in particular are small and falling fast.

WildAid’s efforts to reduce consumer demand and end the ivory trade will help stop the massacre for good. Our campaigns raise awareness of the elephant poaching crisis, support lawmakers in banning ivory sales, and measurably reduce demand for ivory in Thailand, China, Japan and the U.S.

Key figures


China has closed all 172 ivory carving factories and retail shops.


Ivory seized coming into China fell by 80% in 2016.


Wholesale ivory prices in Hong Kong SAR and China dropped as much as 78% between 2014 and 2016.

Making an impact

In 2012, WildAid launched a massive campaign to reduce ivory demand in China in partnership with Save the Elephants and the African Wildlife Foundation. Since then, public awareness of the crisis has grown rapidly.

On December 31, 2017, China, once the world’s largest ivory market, banned all domestic ivory sales. WildAid was instrumental in supporting the government in this historic action, the greatest single step in safeguarding the future of the African elephant. That decision has unquestionably helped to bring poaching rates down. WildAid continues our efforts to support a ban on ivory sales in Japan and Vietnam.

Watch Yao Ming explaining that the ivory trade is now illegal in China.

In 2015, Wildaid launched the “Join the herd” campaign in Tanzania with the slogan “Poaching steals from us all”. With the support of high-profile celebrities, the campaign went viral on social media, raising awareness on the plight of elephants and the importance of protecting them. In partnership with the religious council of Tanzania we published a book showing how religious teaching supports the protection of wildlife. Since then, the Tanzanian government has strengthened law enforcement on wildlife crimes, leading to the sentencing of a Chinese businesswoman nicknamed the Ivory Queen to 15 years in jail in 2019 for running one of Africa's largest smuggling rings out of Tanzania. Elephant populations in Tanzania have risen to around 60,000 in 2019 from 43,000 in 2014.

In Uganda, WildAid has introduced a “smelly” elephant repellent as a natural, non-violent approach to reduce elephant crop-raiding. Trials over the past three years have been very positive, with over 80% of crop raids being prevented by the smelly repellent. People’s attitudes towards elephants are also improving, as farmers now feel that they have a way of diverting the animals away from their gardens. Working with our partners, WildAid is developing ways to get the product to as many people as possible.

Elephant Facts

  • African elephants are the largest land mammals on the planet, with adult males reaching up above three meters high and weighing six tonnes. 
  • There are two species of elephant in Africa, the savannah elephant that lives on the plains of sub-Saharan Africa and the forest elephant that lives in Central and West Africa and is even more endangered.
  • Elephants are matriarchal, with herds usually led by the oldest and largest female. Adult males, called bulls, tend to roam alone.
  • Tusks are elongated incisor teeth and are used for fighting, digging, feeding and marking. An elephant’s trunk is an extension of upper lip and nose, with around 40,000 muscles. It is sensitive enough to pick up a feather or shell a peanut, but strong enough to push over a tree, and large enough to hold 12 litres of water. 
  • Elephants are self-aware, among only a few species that can recognize themselves in a mirror. They grieve for dead members of their herd. They have the largest brains of any land mammal, with a large and complex neocortex, in common with humans, apes and some dolphins. They have the creative problem-solving skills and a great memory: the saying “elephants never forget” is probably pretty accurate

Elephants in African culture

Elephants are portrayed in prehistoric rock art across Africa dating back more than 10,000 years, with images suggesting a close and possibly symbiotic relationship with early humans.

Many African legends portray elephants as wise, strong and just, and some suggest they may even have been descended from people. Today, elephants or tusks feature on the coat of arms of South Africa and Cote d’Ivoire.

Elephants’ value

Elephants are worth more alive than dead. A study found that elephant tourism contributes nearly $23,000 per elephant per year to the economies of Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia and South Africa, or more than $1.6 million over an elephant's lifetime, much more than if they had been killed for their tusks.