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Poachers are getting rich on ivory, but they could wipe out elephants

A new study predicts the African elephant may be extinct within 100 years
A new study predicts the African elephant may... 02:06

ISTANBUL - A new study predicts a dire future for the African elephant. So many are being slaughtered, the species may be extinct within 100 years.

Poachers are getting rich selling tusks and the trade is killing elephants by the tens of thousands.

Filming with a hidden camera in an Egyptian market last year, we met Essam, who offered to sell us six tusks freshly trafficked into Cairo - some with elephant hide still attached.

Essam told us most of his customers were from China, where intricate ivory carvings are a status symbol for the country's wealthy elite.

He even showed us how his Chinese customers evade customs officials - by spray-painting their ivory to make it look like wood or metal.

The demand for ivory objects is fueling the tusk trade. CBS News

The booming trade in Asia is fueling the slaughter in Africa, which is so lucrative that poaching gangs now use automatic weapons and even helicopters to hunt their prey.

According to the new study, 100,000 elephants were killed for their tusks over just three years.

Since 1979, the African elephant's range has shrunk dramatically. Now the animals have reached what the study's authors call a tipping point - with more elephants killed each year than those being born.

If it continues, they'll be wiped out.

More African elephants are now being slaughtered each year than are being born. CBS News

Some Asian governments are cracking down on the trade by seizing smuggled ivory and destroying it.

But this stockpile of confiscated ivory we found in Egypt is just a fraction of what's still being trafficked.

Every pair of smuggled tusks brings elephants closer to extinction.

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