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Tanzania Elephants Suffer 'Catastrophic' Decline

An elephant crosses a road made for Safari vehicles as tourists take photos in Tarangire National Park on the outskirts of Arusha, northern Tanzania, Jan. 16, 2015.

Tanzania has emerged as an epicenter in the African elephant poaching crisis, after a government census found it had lost 60 percent of its elephants in just five years.

A Tanzanian government report released Monday estimated that 65,721 elephants have died in the country in the last five years. The report showed the number of Tanzanian elephants plummeted from an estimated 109,051 in 2009 to 43,330 in 2014.

"It is incredible that poaching on such an industrial scale has not been identified and addressed before now," said Steven Broad, head of the conservation group TRAFFIC.

He called the numbers "catastrophic" and accused Tanzania of "hemorrhaging ivory."

According to TRAFFIC, 45 tons of ivory have reached the international black market from Tanzania since 2009, making it Africa’s largest source of poached ivory.

The Tanzanian government says it has added an additional 1,000 rangers to protect wildlife, but Broad said "there is a real risk that it could be a case of too little too late for some elephant populations.''