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African elephants were listed as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in 2008, with no independent assessment of the conservation status of the two forms.[141] In 1979, Africa had an estimated minimum population of 1.3 million elephants, with a possible upper limit of 3.0 million. By 1989, the population was estimated to be 609,000; with 277,000 in Central Africa, 110,000 in eastern Africa, 204,000 in southern Africa, and 19,000 in western Africa. About 214,000 elephants were estimated to live in the rainforests, fewer than had previously been thought. From 1977 to 1989, elephant populations declined by 74% in East Africa. After 1987, losses in elephant numbers accelerated, and savannah populations from Cameroon to Somalia experienced a decline of 80%. African forest elephants had a total loss of 43%. Population trends in southern Africa were mixed, with anecdotal reports of losses in Zambia, Mozambique and Angola while populations grew in Botswana and Zimbabwe and were stable in South Africa.[142] Conversely, studies in 2005 and 2007 found populations in eastern and southern Africa were increasing by an average annual rate of 4.0%.[141] Due to the vast areas involved, assessing the total African elephant population remains difficult and involves an element of guesswork. The IUCN estimates a total of around 440,000 individuals for 2012 while TRAFFIC estimates as many as 55 are poached daily.[143][144]

African elephants receive at least some legal protection in every country where they are found, but 70% of their range exists outside protected areas. Successful conservation efforts in certain areas have led to high population densities. As of 2008, local numbers were controlled by contraception or translocation. Large-scale cullings ceased in 1988, when Zimbabwe abandoned the practice. In 1989, the African elephant was listed under Appendix I by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), making trade illegal. Appendix II status (which allows restricted trade) was given to elephants in Botswana, Namibia, and Zimbabwe in 1997 and South Africa in 2000. In some countries, sport hunting of the animals is legal; Botswana, Cameroon, Gabon, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe have CITES export quotas for elephant trophies.[141] In June 2016, the First Lady of Kenya, Margaret Kenyatta, helped launch the East Africa Grass-Root Elephant Education Campaign Walk, organised by elephant conservationist Jim Nyamu. The event was conducted to raise awareness

Scientists debate the extent to which elephants feel emotion. They appear to show interest in the bones of their own kind, regardless of whether they are related.[136] As with chimps and dolphins, a dying or dead elephant may elicit attention and aid from others, including those from other groups. This has been interpreted as expressing "concern";[137] however, others would dispute such an interpretation as being anthropomorphic;[138][139] the Oxford Companion to Animal Behaviour (1987) advised that "one is well advised to study the behaviour rather than attempting to get at any underlying emotion".[140]

African elephants were listed as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in 2008, with no independent assessment of the conservation status of the two forms.[141] In 1979, Africa had an estimated minimum population of 1.3 million elephants, with a possible upper limit of 3.0 million. By 1989, the population was estimated to be 609,000; with 277,000 in Central Africa, 110,000 in eastern Africa, 204,000 in southern Africa, and 19,000 in western Africa. About 214,000 elephants were estimated to live in the rainforests, fewer than had previously been thought. From 1977 to 1989, elephant populations declined by 74% in East Africa. After 1987, losses in elephant numbers accelerated, and savannah populations from Cameroon to Somalia experienced a decline of 80%. African forest elephants had a total loss of 43%. Population trends in southern Africa were mixed, with anecdotal reports of losses in Zambia, Mozambique and Angola while populations grew in Botswana and Zimbabwe and were stable in South Africa.[142] Conversely, studies in 2005 and 2007 found populations in eastern and southern Africa were increasing by an average annual rate of 4.0%.[141] Due to the vast areas involved, assessing the total African elephant population remains difficult and involves an element of guesswork. The IUCN estimates a total of around 440,000 individuals for 2012 while TRAFFIC estimates as many as 55 are poached daily.[143][144]

African elephants receive at least some legal protection in every country where they are found, but 70% of their range exists outside protected areas. Successful conservation efforts in certain areas have led to high population densities. As of 2008, local numbers were controlled by contraception or translocation. Large-scale cullings ceased in 1988, when Zimbabwe abandoned the practice. In 1989, the African elephant was listed under Appendix I by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), making trade illegal. Appendix II status (which allows restricted trade) was given to elephants in Botswana, Namibia, and Zimbabwe in 1997 and South Africa in 2000. In some countries, sport hunting of the animals is legal; Botswana, Cameroon, Gabon, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe have CITES export quotas for elephant trophies.[141] In June 2016, the First Lady of Kenya, Margaret Kenyatta, helped launch the East Africa Grass-Root Elephant Education Campaign Walk, organised by elephant conservationist Jim Nyamu. The event was conducted to raise awareness of the value of elephants and rhinos, to help mitigate human-elephant conflicts, and to promote anti-poaching activities.African elephants receive at least some legal protection in every country where they are found, but 70% of their range exists outside protected areas. Successful conservation efforts in certain areas have led to high population densities. As of 2008, local numbers were controlled by contraception or translocation. Large-scale cullings ceased in 1988, when Zimbabwe abandoned the practice. In 1989, the African elephant was listed under Appendix I by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), making trade illegal. Appendix II status (which allows restricted trade) was given to elephants in Botswana, Namibia, and Zimbabwe in 1997 and South Africa in 2000. In some countries, sport hunting of the animals is legal; Botswana, Cameroon, Gabon, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe have CITES export quotas for elephant trophies.[141] In June 2016, the First Lady of Kenya, Margaret Kenyatta, helped launch the East Africa Grass-Root Elephant Education Campaign Walk, organised by elephant conservationist Jim Nyamu. The event was conducted to raise awareness of the value of elephants and rhinos, to help mitigate human-elephant conflicts, and to promote anti-poaching activities.[145]

In 2008, the IUCN listed the Asian elephant as endangered due to a 50% population decline over the past 60–75 years[146] while CITES lists the species under Appendix I.[146] Asian elephants once ranged from Syria and Iraq (the subspecies Elephas maximus asurus), to China (up to the Yellow River)[147] and Java. It is now extinct in these areas,[146] and the current range of Asian elephants is highly fragmented.[147] The total population of Asian elephants is estimated to be around 40,000–50,000, although this may be a loose estimate. It is likely that around half of the population is in India. Although Asian elephants are declining in numbers overall, particularly in Southeast Asia, the population in the Western Ghats appears to be increasing.[146]

The poaching of elephants for their ivory, meat and hides has been one of the major threats to their existence.[146] Historically, numerous cultures made ornaments and other works of art from elephant ivory, and its use rivalled that of gold.[149] The ivory trade contributed to the African elephant population decline in the late 20th century.[141] This prompted international bans on ivory imports, starting with the United States in June 1989, and followed by bans in other North American countries, western European countries, and Japan.[149] Around the same time, Kenya destroyed all its ivory stocks.[150] CITES approved an international ban on ivory that went into effect in January 1990. Following the bans, unemployment rose in India and China, where the ivory industry was important economically. By contrast, Japan and Hong Kong, which were also part of the industry, were able to adapt and were not badly affected.[149] Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia, and Malawi wanted to continue the ivory trade and were allowed to, since their local elephant populations were healthy, but only if their supplies were from elephants that had been culled or died of natural causes.[150]

The ban allowed the elephant to recover in parts of Africa.[149] In January 2012, 650 elephants in Bouba Njida National Park, Cameroon, were killed by Chadian raiders.[151] This has been called "one of the worst concentrated killings" since the ivory ban.[150] Asian elephants are potentially less vulnerable to the ivory trade, as females usually lack tusks. Still, members of the species have been killed for their ivory in some areas, such as Periyar National Park in India.[146] China was the biggest market for poached ivory but announced they would phase out the legal domestic manufacture and sale of ivory products in May 2015, and in September 2015, China and the United States said "they would enact a nearly complete ban on the import and export of ivory" due to causes of extinction.[152]

Other threats to elephants include habitat destruction and fragmentation.[141] The Asian elephant lives in areas with some of the highest human populations. Because they need larger amounts of land than other sympatric terrestrial mammals, they are the first to be affected by human encroachment. In extreme cases, elephants may be confined to small islands of forest among human-dominated landsc

The ban allowed the elephant to recover in parts of Africa.[149] In January 2012, 650 elephants in Bouba Njida National Park, Cameroon, were killed by Chadian raiders.[151] This has been called "one of the worst concentrated killings" since the ivory ban.[150] Asian elephants are potentially less vulnerable to the ivory trade, as females usually lack tusks. Still, members of the species have been killed for their ivory in some areas, such as Periyar National Park in India.[146] China was the biggest market for poached ivory but announced they would phase out the legal domestic manufacture and sale of ivory products in May 2015, and in September 2015, China and the United States said "they would enact a nearly complete ban on the import and export of ivory" due to causes of extinction.[152]

Other threats to elephants include habitat destruction and fragmentation.[141] The Asian elephant lives in areas with some of the highest human populations. Because they need larger amounts of land than other sympatric terrestrial mammals, they are the first to be affected by human encroachment. In extreme cases, elephants may be confined to small islands of forest among human-dominated landscapes. Elephants cannot coexist with humans in agricultural areas due to their size and food requirements. Elephants commonly trample and consume crops, which contributes to conflicts with humans, and both elephants and humans have died by the hundreds as a result. Mitigating these conflicts is important for conservation.[146] One proposed solution is the provision of 'urban corridors' which allow the animals access to key areas.[153]

Elephants have been working animals since at least the Indus Valley Civilization[154] and continue to be used in modern times. There were 13,000–16,500 working elephants employed in Asia in 2000. These animals are typically captured from the wild when they are 10–20 years old when they can be trained quickly and easily, and will have a longer working life.[155] They were traditionally captured with traps and lassos, but since 1950, tranquillisers have been used.[156]

Individuals of the Asian species have been often trained as working animals. Asian elephants perform tasks such as hauling loads into remote areas, moving logs to rivers and roads, transporting tourists around national parks, pulling wagons, and leading religious processions.[155] In northern Thailand, the animals are used to digest coffee beans for Black Ivory coffee.[157] They are valued over mechanised tools because they can work in relatively deep water, require relatively little maintenance, need only vegetation and water as fuel and can be trained to memorise specific tasks. Elephants can be trained to respond to over 30 commands.national parks, pulling wagons, and leading religious processions.[155] In northern Thailand, the animals are used to digest coffee beans for Black Ivory coffee.[157] They are valued over mechanised tools because they can work in relatively deep water, require relatively little maintenance, need only vegetation and water as fuel and can be trained to memorise specific tasks. Elephants can be trained to respond to over 30 commands.[155] Musth bulls can be difficult and dangerous to work with and are chained and semi-starved until the condition passes.[158] In India, many working elephants are alleged to have been subject to abuse. They and other captive elephants are thus protected under The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act of 1960.[159]

In both Myanmar and Thailand, deforestation and other economic factors have resulted in sizable populations of unemployed elephants resulting in health problems for the elephants themselves as well as economic and safety problems for the people amongst whom they live.[160][161]

The practice of working elephants has also been attempted in Africa. The taming of African elephants in the Belgian Congo began by decree of Leopold II of Belgium during the 19th century and continues to the present with the Api Elephant Domestication Centre.[162]

Historically, elephants were considered formidable instruments of war. They were equipped with armour to protect their sides, and their tusks were given sharp points of iron or brass if they were large enough. War elephants were trained to grasp an enemy soldier and toss him to the person riding on them or to pin the soldier to the ground and impale him.[163]

One of the earliest references to war elephants is in the Indian epic Mahabharata (written in the 4th century BC, but said to describe events between the 11th and 8th centuries BC). They were not used as much as horse-drawn chariots by either the Pandavas or Kauravas. During the Magadha Kingdom (which began in the 6th century BC), elephants began to achieve greater cultural importance than horses, and later Indian kingdoms used war elephants extensively; 3,000 of them were used in the Nandas (5th and 4th centuries BC) army while 9,000 may have been used in the Mauryan army (between the 4th and 2nd centuries BC). The Arthashastra (written around 300 BC) advised the Mauryan government to reserve some forests for wild elephants for use in the army, and to execute anyone who killed them.[164] From South Asia, the use of elephants in warfare spread west to PersiaMahabharata (written in the 4th century BC, but said to describe events between the 11th and 8th centuries BC). They were not used as much as horse-drawn chariots by either the Pandavas or Kauravas. During the Magadha Kingdom (which began in the 6th century BC), elephants began to achieve greater cultural importance than horses, and later Indian kingdoms used war elephants extensively; 3,000 of them were used in the Nandas (5th and 4th centuries BC) army while 9,000 may have been used in the Mauryan army (between the 4th and 2nd centuries BC). The Arthashastra (written around 300 BC) advised the Mauryan government to reserve some forests for wild elephants for use in the army, and to execute anyone who killed them.[164] From South Asia, the use of elephants in warfare spread west to Persia[163] and east to Southeast Asia.[165] The Persians used them during the Achaemenid Empire (between the 6th and 4th centuries BC)[163] while Southeast Asian states first used war elephants possibly as early as the 5th century BC and continued to the 20th century.[165]

In his 326 B.C. Indian campaign, Alexander the Great confronted elephants for the first time, and suffered heavy casualties. Among the reasons for the refusal of the rank-and-file Macedonian soldiers to continue the Indian conquest were rumors of even larger elephant armies in India.[166] Alexander trained his foot soldiers to injure the animals and cause them to panic during wars with both the Persians and Indians. Ptolemy, who was one of Alexander's generals, used corps of Asian elephants during his reign as the ruler of Egypt (which began in 323 BC). His son and successor Ptolemy II (who began his rule in 285 BC) obtained his supply of elephants further south in Nubia. From then on, war elephants were employed in the Mediterranean and North Africa throughout the classical period. The Greek king Pyrrhus used elephants in his attempted invasion of Rome in 280 BC. While they frightened the Roman horses, they were not decisive and Pyrrhus ultimately lost the battle. The Carthaginian general Hannibal took elephants across the Alps during his war with the Romans and reached the Po Valley in 217 BC with all of them alive, but they later succumbed to disease.[163]