All About African Forest Elephants
Adapted from an article by Amelia Meier

In celebration of Endangered Species Day, we thought it a great opportunity to spread the news that the African forest elephant (Loxodonta cyclotis) was finally recognized as a new species of elephant by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Species Survival Commission and their conservation status listed as critically endangered!

Until this year all African elephants were considered the same species. This long-awaited status recognition was delayed largely due to the lack of knowledge about forest elephants. Forest elephants live in the dense forests from Guinea in West Africa to the Democratic Republic of Congo in Central Africa which makes observations and in-depth study nearly impossible.

Being recognized as a unique species is an essential step towards improving forest elephant conservation. Their global population has been reduced by more than 80% in the past three generations and if this trend continues it will likely lead to their extinction. Poaching for ivory is the predominant cause of the precipitous decline, followed by habitat loss and fragmentation.

While the forest elephant looks similar to the African savanna elephant, their size, straight tusks, smooth skin, and more rounded ears help distinguish them. In addition to being genetically different from Asian and African savanna elephants, forest elephants have unique diets, interactions with their habitat, morphology, and behavior.

The International Elephant Foundation has supported a number of projects focusing on forest elephants, including the work of Amelia Meier who spent six years combining satellite GPS tracking and genetic technologies (testing dung!) to determine forest elephant social structure and developing statistical models to help improve how researchers estimate the population size.

This year, IEF is supporting “Elephant Monitoring and Conservation in Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda” where forest elephants are considered pests by the neighboring communities. This project protects elephants, monitors populations, provides community awareness and education campaigns in primary schools.

Conservation Video Awards Winners!

Our projects do such amazing work, join us in celebrating our Conservation Video Awards Winners! Voted on by our Board of Directors, experts, and you (via social media), here are this year’s winners:

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