Africa is poised to lose 20 percent of its elephant population over the next decade if illegal poaching continues at its current rate, according to new figures released by the Elephant Summit in Botswana. In a report by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), researchers estimate that 22,000 elephants were illegally killed just last year–a blow that shrank the population to less than half a million. The worst elephant massacre took place in September 2013 when poachers killed over 300 elephants by poisoning a watering hole with cyanide.

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Though poaching is a pervasive problem throughout Africa, most of the killings take place in Central Africa, where the poaching rate is estimated at twice the continental average. According to an analysis by CITES, that region has lost nearly two thirds of its elephant population in the past decade. This rate, warns John E. Scanlon, CITES Secretary-General, could soon lead to local extinctions. Over 40 tonnes of tusks have been confiscated in transit this year.

Emergency action is being discussed this week in summits held in both Botswana and Paris. Rising demand for illegal ivory in China coupled with poverty and weak enforcement in African nations are considered major factors in the increase in elephant poaching in the last ten years.

Via Huffington Post