Audio released today records the moment when an elephant in Central Africa was shot and killed by ivory poachers, according to the Wildlife Conservation Society.

The recording is part of WCS’s 96 Elephants campaign, which makes the point that poachers kill 96 elephants every day. At this rate, some conservationists predict that elephants in the wild will go extinct within 12 years.

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“The level of killing clearly is not sustainable,” Craig Sholley, vice president of the African Wildlife Foundation, told Discovery News. “Unless we act quickly and forcefully, elephants in the wild could go extinct in our lifetime. That would be a grave loss.”

Scientists from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Elephant Listening Project made the low-frequency recording. The scientists had left remote devices in the field, which they then later retrieved. The devices are meant to record the low frequency communication of elephants but, in this case, they recorded the poaching event.

The WCS says throughout Africa, elephant numbers have plummeted by 76 percent since 1980 largely due to the demand for ivory. Poachers slaughtered an estimated 35,000 elephants in 2012 alone.

Much of the demand for ivory comes from countries in Asia such as China, where education campaigns have been underway to teach possible ivory purchasers about how the material was obtained. Ivory is still a prestige material in China, where new affluence continues to drive purchases.

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The WCS hopes that their campaign will help to secure effective U.S. moratorium laws, bolster elephant protection with additional funding, and add to the worldwide education efforts that inform the public about the link between ivory purchases and elephant poaching.

“The elephant poaching crisis in Africa is the most urgent threat to biodiversity on the continent today,” James Deutsch, WCS executive director for Africa programs, told Discovery News. “Raising awareness of the issue is vital to encourage countries around the world to end domestic and international ivory sales.”

(Image: Image: Paul Mannix)