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Fictional Magazine Cover Imagines The Day African Elephants Go Extinct (And It Might Not Be Far Off)

The finality of extinction is beyond comprehension for most people, and it's particularly hard to imagine that fate befalling our planet's most beloved species. But given current trends in decline among Africa's iconic elephants, the sad reality of a world without them could be upon us sooner than many folks even realize.

According to researchers, if elephants continue to be hunted at current rates -- which is more than 35,000 a year -- the wild species could be wiped out entirely from ivory poaching by as early as 2020.

To put this stark possibility into perspective, here's a fictionalized magazine cover from that year, one that might be splashed across real-life newsstands:

Fortunately, while the situation is certainly dire for Africa's elephants, it's far from inevitable. As conservationists work to protect these animals on the ground, an international effort is underway to end the ivory trade.

But the most important factor in staving off elephant's extinction is a concerned global community, unwilling to let these animals disappear before its eyes. That said, there is another future that could be awaiting elephants based on actions taken today -- and it could lead to one of the world's greatest conservation success stories: