Elephants face extinction in Ivory Coast, the country’s water and forestry ministry said Wednesday. Because of deforestation, urbanization and poaching, fewer than 500 elephants are left in the country, Kouame Me, an official at the ministry, said.
“The population of pachyderms was 100,000 individuals in the 1960s,” Kouame told AFP. Almost 90 percent of forests have been destroyed in the past 50 years for the production of cocoa, the country’s top export product.
Deforestation has endangered the last living areas of forest elephants, environmental experts say. Elephants are also threatened by poachers and rapid urbanization that is taking the animals’ natural habitats.
The illegal trade in ivory is the third most lucrative after drugs and arms trafficking, fuelled by demand in Asia and the Middle East, where elephant tusks are used in traditional medicine and ornaments.
The government launched a conservation drive in 2016 in the Mont Peko game park in the west of the country, home to the world’s last dwarf elephants.
Kouame added that more than 200 animal species face extinction in Ivory Coast.