Poaching African elephants is in decline, as experts discover fewer of the huge animals being slaughtered now than in 2011.
Figures show that more than ten percent of African elephants were killed illegally that year when the poaching epidemic reached its peak.
The number fell to four percent in 2017 and it is believed that the decline in deaths is due to the declining demand for ivory in China.
Conservationists are careful with the good news, but say that more work and training is needed to ensure the long-term survival of the species.
Between 10,000 and 15,000 elephants are killed every year, it is believed, resulting in a rapid drop in the estimated population of just 350,000 elephants.
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Figures show that at the height of sub-Saharan poaching more than 10 percent of African elephants were killed illegally. This fell to four percent in 2017 (stock)
Data on the number of murders were collected by assessing how many carcasses were registered at 53 locations in 29 countries of the MIKE (Monitoring the Illegal Killing of Elephants).
One of the authors of the study, Dr. Colin Beale, of the University of York, said: “We see a decline in poaching, which is clearly positive news, but it is still beyond what we think is sustainable, so the elephant populations are finished.
& # 39; Poaching figures seem to respond primarily to ivory prices in Southeast Asia and we cannot hope that we will succeed without addressing demand in that region. & # 39;
The authors of the study did not attribute the marked decline in elephant death rates to the ban on ivory trade in 2017, because the problem is probably much more complicated.
Paul De Ornellas, Chief Wildlife Officer at WWF told MailOnline: & # 39; The total poaching rate of African Elephant remains at a level below the peak slaughter we saw during the first half of the decade.
& # 39; However, it remains at worrying levels, with a mixed picture across the continent. For example, elephant populations in Central Africa continue to suffer heavy losses as a result of the ivory trade.
& # 39; And we are still seeing large-scale seizures of ivory in Asia. This shows that the illegal trade in ivory still poses a major threat to African elephants across much of their distribution area.
& # 39; The international community must continue to make efforts to strengthen law enforcement and reduce consumer demand if we are to combat this illegal trade and secure a long-term future for elephants. & # 39;
Education is essential to tackle the slaughter of elephants to prevent it from becoming a viable market, the researchers say.
The decline in animal mortality is thought to be due to the declining demand for ivory in China. Conservationists are careful with the good news, but say that more work is needed to ensure the survival of the species in the long term (stock)
Dr. Beale added: & We must reduce demand in Asia and improve the livelihood of people living with elephants in Africa; these are the two biggest goals to ensure the long-term survival of elephants.
& # 39; Elephants are the definition of charismatic megafauna, but they are also important engineers of the African savannah and forest ecosystems and play a crucial role in attracting ecotourism, so maintaining them is a real concern. & # 39;
Severin Hauenstein, an analyst at Biometry and Environmental System at the University of Freiburg, added: & # 39; This is a positive trend, but we should not see this as an end to the poaching crisis.
ARE ELEPHANTS SAFE FROM EXTINCTION?
African elephants (Loxodonta africana) are listed as & # 39; vulnerable & # 39; on the red list of the IUCN, which monitors the risk of extinction for animals.
They have been extensively hunted for years and poached illegally for their tusks.
The ivory is of great value to human places in Asia, but is now banned in many countries.
In 2017, there was a ban on banning the sale of ivory in China, which was announced as a major victory for giants.
They are also important engineers of African savannah and forest ecosystems and play a vital role in attracting ecotourism.
The levels of poaching have been declining in recent years, but conservationists are warning that efforts to protect them should not be eased in the light of this news.
& # 39; After some changes in the political environment, the total number of illegally killed elephants in Africa appears to be declining, but to assess potential protection measures, we need to understand the local and global processes that are driving illegal elephant hunting. & # 39;
The publication of the research in the journal Nature communication comes less than a week after it surfaced Botswana lifted its ban on elephant hunting.
It said the elephant population had increased and farmers' livelihoods were affected and the resumption of hunting would be allowed.
A ban on elephant hunting was introduced to the South African country in 2014 by the then President Ian Khama, an avid conservationist.
Lisa Rolls Hagelberg, Head of Wildlife Communication and Ambassador Relations, UN Environment, said about the latest study: & Securing a future with wild elephants and countless other species, requires stronger laws and enforcement efforts and genuine community involvement ; However, as long as demand exists, the supply will find a way to extinguish it.
& # 39; Only about six percent of current funding for tackling illegal trade in wildlife focuses on communication.
& # 39; For long-term success, governments must give priority to extensive social and behavioral change interventions to both prevent and reduce demand. We have the knowledge, now we have to invest to really influence environmental awareness. & # 39;
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