From 2006-2011 over half of the forest elephants (Loxodonta cyclotis) in Central Africa have been killed by poachers, Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) reports.
At the start of the period, there were 13,000 forest elephants around the Nouabalé-Ndoki National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo, but as of last year only 6,300 remain, living in an area the size of Rhode Island.
The only good news in this is that within the park and in surrounding areas managed under Forest Stewardship Council guidelines, both patrolled by rangers, is that the elephant population remains stable. This area is "becoming the last stronghold for the entire species," according to the director of WCS's Republic of Congo program.
WCS explains the origins of the poaching:
The illegal ivory trade drives the precipitous decline of forest elephants in the Republic of Congo and across the Congo Basin. Part of a huge wave of international organized crime that links trafficking in humans, wildlife, and drugs and weapons, the illegal ivory trade delivers big payoffs to ivory traffickers at all levels along the chain. Other factors contributing to the slaughter of elephants include access to formerly impenetrable tracts of rainforest through new roads in the region and the proliferation of arms such as AK-47 rifles. It is now recognized that even well-protected areas in Africa are under enormous pressure and must be better protected immediately.
African forest elephants, smaller than the more commonly known savannah elephant, are now considered a separate species.
African forest elephants are listed as Vulnerable by the IUCN.