Africa's elephants have reached a tipping point, where more are being killed each year by poachers than are being born, a study suggests.
Researchers believe that since 2010 an average of nearly 35,000 elephants have been killed annually on the continent.
They warn that if the rate of poaching continues, the animals could be wiped out in 100 years.
The work is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Lead author George Wittemyer, from Colorado State University, said: "We are shredding the fabric of elephant society and exterminating populations across the continent."
The illegal trade in elephant tusks has soared in recent years, and a kilogram of ivory is now worth thousands of dollars. Much of the demand has been driven by a rapidly growing market in Asia."If this is sustained, then we will see significant declines over time.”While conservationists have long said the outlook was bleak, this study provides a detailed assessment of the impact this is having on Africa's elephants.
The researchers have found that between 2010 and 2013, Africa lost an average of 7% of its entire elephant population each year.
Because elephant births boost the population by about 5% annually, this means that overall more of the animals are being killed than are being born.
Julian Blanc, who also worked on the study, from the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (Cites), said: "If this is sustained, then we will see significant declines over time.