“The surge in poaching for ivory that began approximately a decade ago — the worst that Africa has experienced since the 1970s and 1980s — has been the main driver of the decline,” said IUCN.
Though poaching makes up 60 percent of the elephant deaths, loss of habitat is also threatening the majestic mammal species.
“It is shocking but not surprising that poaching has taken such a dramatic toll on this iconic species," Inger Andersen, director general for IUCN, told 10 News. "This report provides further scientific evidence of the need to scale up efforts to combat poaching."
South Africa currently has the highest elephant population, of approximately 293,000, or over 70 percent of those left on the continent. Poaching has been the most damaging in Eastern Africa, in places including Tanzania, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Cameroon, Chad and the Central African Republic, where the elephant population has decreased nearly 50 percent. Central and West Africa are home to 9 percent of the remaining population combined.
While ivory is highly controversial and the import and trade is banned in many nations, it continues to be both popular and expensive in many Asian countries, including China.