In 2011, some areas of Africa reported the highest level of poaching rates ever recorded. Researchers estimate that 38,000 elephants are killed every year to supply the illegal ivory trade. That is, one elephant killed every 15 minutes. Unfortunately, the market offers significant reward to poachers; ivory can sell for as much as $1,100 a kilogram in China (Save The Elephants 2015 China Report). Poachers make $200 per kilogram of ivory meaning that even a small pair of tusks can net a poacher more money than he would otherwise make in an entire year. If this trend continues, elephants could become extinct within 15 years.
Additionally, this illegal trade is fueling terrorist organizations in Africa and abroad; Al-Shabaab, al Qaeda’s affiliate in Somalia, generated between $200,000 and $600,000 a month from tusks alone. The illegal ivory trade also funds Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army in Central Africa and Boko Haram in Nigeria.
You can see a direct correlation between the continued demand for ivory and the illegal killing of elephants. An estimated population of 1.3 million elephants in 1979 fell to half that number in the mid-1980s. After the CITES trade ban in 1989, elephant populations rebounded through the early 2000s, but by 2007, a continental estimate showed the number of elephants remaining in the wild to be at an all-time low, as the resurgence in demand for ivory brought new and intense waves of poaching. Poaching continues to pose an immediate threat.