New study finds poaching has helped shrink population by 60% since 2002 – and eventually may be responsible for eradicating one of the largest creatures left

Forest-dwelling elephants are likely to face extinction far more quickly than previously assumed because their sluggish reproduction rate cannot keep pace with rampant poaching and habitat loss, a new study has found.

The first comprehensive research into forest elephant demographics found that even if poaching was curbed, it will take nearly 100 years for the species just to recover the losses suffered in the past decade. The forest elephant population has crashed by more than 60% since 2002, with the species now inhabiting less than a quarter of its potential range of the Congo basin in Africa.

Related: Why the Guardian is spending a year reporting on the plight of elephants

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