Dead or alive: The value of an elephant

At the turn of the 20th century, some 10 million wild elephants roamed Africa. That only around 400,000 remain — another one is killed about every 15 minutes — tells you all you need to know about the dire situation these iconic creatures face. African elephants could be all but wiped out within our lifetime, thanks to poachers who supply surging global demand for illicit ivory that in turn helps fund organized crime and terrorist networks.

Whether humanity can turn the tide against elephant poaching remains to be seen. But one thing is certain: These animals are worth more alive than dead. A recent study estimated the tourism value of an elephant at US$ 1.6 million throughout its lifetime. On World Elephant Day, here’s a look at how elephants are a crucial element not just of ecosystems but of economies.

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Bruno Vander Velde is Conservation International’s editorial director. Sign up for email updates here. Donate to CI here.


  1. eusebio manuel vestias pecurto says

    The harmful effect The human overpopulation is destroing the desert if African countries are to prevent wild natural life and revenue streams they should be more vigilant about the exclusion of people to conserve educate their population about the benefits of a rich ecosystem

  2. LINDA BADHAM says

    The human is the most dangerous viscious greedy hard hearted species on this earth. Its about time something is done to protect all animals from them. All life is connected what ever physical body its in ! Animals feel and love and live by the laws of nature, they must have rights !! .

  3. Garth Edwards says

    Interesting, but inaccurate: numbers of elephants and their remaining ranges greatly overstated. This is part of the problem – the situation is never shown to be as bad as it really is – edges are rounded so as not to offend human sensitivities. If the truth was told all of the time, more people would listen . . ..

  4. Rodnisha Olden says

    I believe these beautiful, peaceful animals should be left alone. No wonder why some animals can’t trust the good humans because they have seen too much of the bad ones.

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  6. Abubakar S. Ringim says

    I was quite disappointed with the recent CITES decision on the total ban of ivory trade irrespective of the country, whether they have large number of Elephants or not. The International conservation communities should have agreed with the proposal to ban total ivory trade as well as impose a death penalty for buyer and seller. This is the only way to save Elephants from going extinct!! This is the right time to act!!!

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