The first continent-wide, standardized survey of African elephants, released Wednesday, shows the future of the species looking gloomy.
A dramatic spike in ivory poaching has led to the decline of the elephant population in most of the countries surveyed, even though most of the elephants in the study (84%) were on protected grounds, according to the Great Elephant Census (GEC)
The study found an alarmingly high number of carcasses - around 12 for every 100 live elephants - even in sanctuaries. This number was highest in Cameroon, where 83 carcasses were found for every 100 live elephants. Many of the slaughtered elephants were victims of butchering by poachers for their ivory - even before they were dead.
Elephants are facing local extinction in parts of the Democratci Republic of Congo, Cameroon, and Zambia, according to the GEC.
The GEC was started in 2014 to monitor savannah elephants across the continent. All other studies and counts of elephants before this were estimates.
The study estimated a population of 352,271 elephants in surveyed sites in 18 countries - a decrease of nearly 150,000 since 2007. The researchers say the population has been shrinking by about 8% each year.
The survey was conducted by air, with researchers in dozens of airplanes manually counting the animals as the pilots flew over herds in carefully calibrated paths. Video surveillance was also used in the count.