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The idea of an Africa without elephants and rhinos is unthinkable. But that was the possibility we faced back in the 1960s. Newspaper reports of the destruction of Africa's rhino and elephant populations led directly to the creation of WWF - and we've been fighting poaching and to protect their habitats ever since.

We've worked with governments and local communities to stop poaching, improve laws on elephant conservation and reduce conflict between people and elephants. We've also helped to bring about a ban on the international ivory trade in 1989 - and we've successfully resisted recent calls for it to be revived.
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Millions of elephants used to roam across Africa. Today, between 470,000 and 690,000 African elephants survive in 37 countries. In most of central and western Africa, they've yet to recover from rampant poaching. But in southern and eastern Africa, elephant populations are now doing well.

Rhinos are also recovering, thanks to our anti-poaching projects and efforts to ensure that local communities benefit from rhino conservation schemes. The white and black white rhino had once been widespread across southern Africa. But in the 20th century, numbers of wild black rhinos declined by 90% and the white rhino population was reduced to just a few individuals. Since our African Rhino Programme was launched in 1997, numbers have increased to over 22,000 white rhinos and 4,000 black rhinos.

Worryingly, rhino poaching in southern Africa has increased in the last two years, driven by a new market for its horn in Asia. We've stepped up our efforts to combat poaching, increase the land available for rhinos and clamp down on illegal trade in rhino horn. We're also continuing our work in Namibia and elsewhere to help local communities benefit from living alongside elephants and rhinos - through wildlife tourism.

We believe there's real hope for the future of these animals," says Diane Walkington, who leads our wildlife work. "But the threats haven't gone away, and so there can be no let-up in our efforts to protect them."

  • Between 470,000 and 690,000 African elephants survive in 37 countries.
  • Since 1997, black and white rhino numbers have increased by 204% to 26,000.
  • 470 rhino were poached in Africa between 2006 and 2009.

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Be part of our 50th
Read our stories from the field - working with African elephants and rhinos
Find out more about our work with African elephants
Learn more about our work with African rhinos
See how we challenge the illegal wildlife trade