The most significant environmental problems in the Central African Republic are desertification, water pollution, and the destruction of the nation's wildlife due to poaching and mismanagement. The encroachment of the desert on the country's agricultural and forest lands is due to deforestation and soil erosion. The nation has 141 cu km of renewable water resources, but its tap water is not safe to drink.
The Central African Republic reports major losses in its elephant population. In 1979, it was disclosed that three-quarters of what had been the nation's elephant population at independence (40,000–80,000) had been killed so that the tusks could be sold for ivory. In the mid-1990s, it was estimated that 90% of the nation's elephant population had been eliminated over the previous 30 years, 85% since 1982. Elephant hunting is now banned. Endangered species in the Central African Republic included the black rhinoceros and northern square-lipped rhinoceros. There are 13 national parks and wildlife reserves. As of 2000, in addition to the loss of the elephant population, 11 other species of mammals in a total of 209 were threatened. Two types of birds in 537 total species were endangered along with one species of reptiles from a total of 129. Of the nation's 3,600 plant species, one was threatened with extinction.