Close-up of African elephant (Loxodonta africana) smelling with trunk in South Luangwa National Park in eastern Zambia
Wolfgang Kaehler—LightRocket via Getty Images
By Laura Stampler
March 23, 2015

Experts announced a jarring prediction at a conservation summit in Botswana Monday: Unless the illegal poaching trade is curbed, African elephants could be extinct in the next couple decades.

“This species could be extinct in our lifetime if the current trend continues…, within one or two decades,” said Dune Ives, a senior researcher at Vulcan, speaking at The Africa Elephant Summit, AFP reports. “In five years we may have lost the opportunity to save this magnificent and iconic animal.”

According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, between 2006 and 2013, the African elephant population has decreased from 550,000 to 470,000, and the number continues to drop. The steep decline in population is largely attribute to illegal poaching and the ivory trade.

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