The International Union for Conservation of Nature warned Thursday that two populations of African elephants were getting dangerously close to extinction.
The conservation group announced the African savanna elephant was now listed as “endangered,” and the African forest elephant was listed as “critically endangered.” The two species of African elephants were added to the conservation group’s list of endangered species due to a decades-long population decline attributed to ivory poaching and loss of habitat.
Elephants are considered among the world’s most intelligent animals. Recent scientific research on elephants’ mental capabilities suggests elephants have a level of self-understanding comparable to young human children, according to the Independent.
“We know, for example, that they are capable of thoughtful cooperation and empathy, and are able to recognize themselves in a mirror,” a researcher from the University of Veterinary Medicine, Rachel Dale, told the Independent. “These abilities are highly unusual in animals.”
The number of African elephants decreased by more than 86% over the past three decades. In particular, African savanna elephant populations decreased at least 60% over the past five decades, according to the conservation group’s assessment.
“Africa’s elephants play key roles in ecosystems, economies and in our collective imagination all over the world,” the conservation group’s director-general, Bruno Oberle, said.
BREAKING NEWS: African elephant species now Endangered and Critically Endangered – IUCN Red List
— IUCN Red List (@IUCNRedList) March 25, 2021
Forest elephants typically live in the tropical forests of Central and West Africa, while savanna elephants are concentrated in the grasslands and deserts of Sub-Saharan Africa. (RELATED: Hundreds Of Elephants Die In Botswana ‘Conservation Disaster’)
It was previously estimated that there were only 415,000 elephants remaining on the African continent, according to a 2016 report by the conservation group.
The conservation group’s “Red List” of animals threatened with extinction included 134,425 species, of which 37,480 species were threatened with extinction.