It is estimated that an African elephant is killed by poachers every 15 minutes, and with only 450,000 remaining in total, the future of these iconic animals hangs in the balance.

But decisions made at the CITES CoP17 (17th Conference of Parties) meeting could prove pivotal in turning this trend around.

Attendees will be discussing a number of key issues concerning African elephants, including the joint proposal made by South Africa, Zimbabwe, and Namibia to lift the ban on ivory trade, and the threat from poaching.

A recently published census – the Great Elephant Census – recorded dramatic declines of elephant populations, with the savannah elephant population down by about 30% from 2007 to 2015, and the forest elephant populations of Central Africa down by a shocking 62% from 2000 to 2010.

With these less than optimistic figures in mind, delegates from ZSL put forward crucial recommendations to attendees at the conference, basing them on expertise gained from overseeing field projects in over 50 countries across the world.

Experts from ZSL put forward that any efforts to resume the international legal trade in ivory should be opposed; a recommendation that was contested by South Africa, Zimbabwe, and Namibia who proposed that the ban be lifted.

In a crucial decision, the proposal was rejected at the conference – a victory that takes a further step toward assuring the future of African elephants.

ZSL has also recommended that all domestic markets for ivory should be closed; that existing initiatives to address ivory trafficking should be strengthened; and that programmes to reduce consumer demand for ivory should be enhanced.

Main image: The Great Elephant Census recorded that almost 150,000 savannah elephants were lost between 2007 and 2015. © Dan Kitwood/Staff/Getty