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Both African elephant species are now endangered, one critically

African elephants are much larger than their Asian counterparts. Image: Arno Meintjes / Flickr.

Rachel Nuwer, National Geographic | March 25, 2021

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Elephants have long been thought of as either African or Asian. But there are actually two species of African elephant: The savanna elephant is larger, has curving tusks, and roams the open plains of sub-Saharan Africa. The smaller, darker forest elephant, with straight tusks, lives in the equatorial forests of Central and West Africa.

Now, for the first time, scientists have separately evaluated how the two are faring—and the findings are grim.

Savanna elephants are endangered and forest elephants are critically endangered, according to an official assessment released today by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) for its Red List of Threatened Species, the world’s most comprehensive inventory of extinction risk.