African Elephants in Danger of Becoming Extinct


Africa's elephants are in danger of becoming extinctIncreased poaching on the continent is putting Africa's elephants in danger. Last year about 20000 elephants were killed. Especially in central African countries elephant populations are down to alarming numbers. In the next ten years the population could be cut by a more than quarter.

At the beginning of the 20th century there were about 10 million African elephants, now there are about 500000. The rate of killings is higher than the natural birth rate.


Howevergovernments in Africa are taking harsh steps in cracking down on poachers. Kenya and Tanzania have arrested more illegal traders than ever before. Ivory is also confiscated at an alarming rate. Last year 40,000 kilos of ivory were seized, mostly in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. For the first time more ivory was seized in Africa than in Asia, its primary destination. Female elephants are at a higher risk because they have especially large tusks.

Conservationists, however, are not so optimistic. They say that even though more ivory is seized, poaching is still on the increase.

The demand for elephant ivory in China is especially high. It has become even more valuable than gold, selling at thousands of dollars per kilo on Asian markets. In China ivory is a multi-billion dollar trade. The valuable material is used in medicine and for decorations.


Although the international ivory trade has been banned since 1989 in order to protect African elephants, poaching rings have been ruthlessly operating across the borders of many African countries. Towards the end of the 1990s the ivory ban was somewhat loosened to allow some countries to sell off their stockpiles. Critics see this is a major mistake.

Poverty in many African states lures the local population into taking part in elephant poaching. Soldiers in some countries are reported to be taking part in illegal killings of elephants.




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  • although = while
  • arrest = to take someone to a police station because they have done something against the law
  • ban = forbid
  • century = a hundred years
  • confiscate = to officially take something away from someone as a punishment
  • conservationist = person who wants to protect endangered animals and give them a safe place to live
  • crack down = to become more strict in dealing with a problem
  • cut = become less
  • decoration = to make something more beautiful
  • demand = the need for something
  • destination = place where something is going to
  • especially = above all
  • extinct = die out
  • government = the people who rule a country
  • harsh = severe, strong
  • however = but
  • illegal = against the law, forbidden
  • increase = to go up
  • ivory = hard, smooth, yellowish white material from tusks of an elephant
  • loosen = to make laws less strict
  • lure = to persuade someone to do something, even if it is wrong or dangerous
  • natural birth rate = here: the number of elephants that are born every year
  • poaching = illegal shooting and killing of animals
  • populations = here: all the animals of a certain group that are alive
  • poverty = the situation of being poor
  • primary = main
  • quarter : here: 25%
  • rate = speed
  • ruthless = brutal, heartless
  • seize = capture
  • sell off = here: sell something at a cheaper price because you need the money
  • soldier = person who fights for their country in a war
  • stockpile = large number of products that are left for future use
  • trade = buying and selling of products
  • tusk = long pointed and curved teeth of an elephant
  • valuable = worth a lot