Forest elephant conservation

Forest Elephant

African elephants (Loxodonta africana) are listed as ‘Vulnerable’ on the IUCN Red List, but at the regional scale, in Central Africa, forest elephants (Loxodonta africana cyclotis) are threatened with extinction and are currently listed as ‘Endangered’.

ZSL has been actively conserving the wildlife and habitats of this region since 2007 and has recently begun to focus our efforts to securing a future for these threatened forest giants. ZSL works to identify elephant populations, enhance law enforcement, protecting vital areas of habitat and improving conservation infrastructure in range states where forest elephants still exist.

Why we are there

The decline of forest elephants in Central Africa is, in part, a result of the unprecedented levels of poaching for the ivory trade in recent years, as well as habitat reduction and fragmentation. Much less is known about these secretive animals in comparison to their savannah cousins even down to how many still exist.

What is clear is that these elephant populations are certainly under massive pressure – it is estimated that the forest elephant has suffered catastrophic declines in numbers of over 60% since 2002. Although the species has vanished from around 30% of its range, it is thought that South East Cameroon, North East Gabon and the Northern Congo, represents a remaining stronghold.  Protecting these populations is vital.

Key achievements and goals

ZSL conservationists monitor elephants in the forests of Cameroon, to better understand, how populations are faring over time and key sites to protect the species as well as supporting efforts to combat poaching.

We work with a number of key partners who all have a role to play; government wildlife departments, parks authorities and law enforcement agencies; fellow NGOs; the timber industry who manage much of the remaining forest of the region and local forest communities who live alongside the forest elephant. 

Activities include: surveys to identify remaining elephant populations, strengthening national law-enforcement efforts through targeted intelligence gathering and support for the legal process; improving national park protection, by equipping and training eco-guards and implementing SMART, helping timber companies implement wildlife protection plans within their timber concessions  and empowering local communities to help fight wildlife crime in their forests through community surveillance networks.

Project information

Key Species

  • African forest elephant, (Loxodonta Africana cyclotis)
  • Threatened with extinction

People involved

  • Chris Ransom and Paul De Ornellas are managing ZSL’s work with the forest elephant

Partners & Sponsors

  • African Wildlife Foundation; Société Pallisco; Société Forestière et Industrielle de la Doumé (SFID); Ministère des Forêts et de la Faune de la République du Cameroun (MINFOF); CITES Monitoring Illegal Killing of Elephants (MIKE) programme
  • Kindly funded by: USFWS - African Elephant Conservation Fund; North of England Zoological Society (Chester Zoo)

Related projects

This project is closely linked with our Wildlife Wood Project, which aims to protect wildlife in timber production forests in this region, and with the Dja conservation complex project which supports the management of the Dja Biosphere Reserve and its periphery to prevent poaching of forest elephant and other vulnerable species.