Today, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) released a new Red List conservation assessment for African elephants. This marks the first time IUCN has classified African elephants as two distinct species: forest elephants and savanna elephants. IUCN’s Red List will now list forest elephants as “Critically Endangered” and savanna elephants as “Endangered.” 

In response, World Wildlife Fund (WWF) issued a statement from Bas Huijbregts, African Species Director:

“The potential positive conservation impact of classifying forest and savanna elephants into two separate species cannot be overstated. Challenges to both species are very different, as are the pathways to their recovery. With the forest elephant now classified as Critically Endangered, we hope this species and its priority forest landscapes across the Congo Basin will finally get the attention they desperately need from range country governments and on the international stage.

“Range states’ development of an African Forest Elephant Action Plan, backed by increased international funding, is an important first step toward long-term protection of the species. This funding could support increased levels of investment for forest elephant conservation within protected areas, production forests, and community-managed areas, all of which require more effective and equitable management.

“The international community also has a critical role to play in ensuring poaching levels continue to drop significantly for this species to have a chance at recovery. Demand for elephant ivory products, like carvings and jewelry, has measurably declined since China banned domestic trade in 2017, and we must continue to effectively engage key consumer groups to further advance this downward trend for forest elephants to have a chance to bounce back.”