A new special from National Geographic Television and PBS explores the brutal ivory trade and its effect on Africa's elephant populations. "Battle for the Elephants," which airs February 27 on PBS, follows journalists Bryan Christy and Aidan Hartley as they track the ivory trade from Tanzania to China.

"You can smell it; it’s almost like dried blood," Hartley described while visiting the world's largest stockpile of ivory tusks in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Walking among 90 metric tons of ivory valued at $50 million, he added, "There is the smell of death in here. All of these are confiscated trophies."

Writer, producer and director John Heminway said in a press release, “If the current situation remains the status quo, we are facing the very real possibility that elephants living in the wild will go extinct in the coming decades." He added, "The market for smuggled ivory is too lucrative for poachers to resist, and our research suggests demand for ivory in China is only going to rise.”

The International Union for Conservation of Nature's Red List of Threatened Species classifies African elephants (Loxodonta africana) as "vulnerable." According to the organization, illegal hunting remains a factor in areas like Central Africa, but "the most important perceived threat is the loss and fragmentation of habitat."

National Geographic notes in the press release that "Battle for the Elephants" was funded in part by billionaire businessman David Koch. Koch was among a number of celebrities in attendance at a February screening of the special. He has abstained from hunting "since 1965 because of his sympathy for animals," reported The New York Times.

Although the Washington Post reports Koch's $35 million donation to the National Museum of Natural History in 2012 was the fifth-largest single donation in Smithsonian history, the oil executive has faced criticism for his environmental stances and for shrugging off climate science.

The underworld of illegal ivory trafficking was also explored last year in the Discovery Channel's "Ivory Wars." Discovery producers went undercover in a market in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo. The show's narrator explained, "it may already be too late" for elephants in the DRC, "thanks to deforestation, consumption of elephant meat and a lax policy on ivory sales."

"Battle for the Elephants" premieres on PBS on Wednesday, February 27 at 9PM EST.

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  • An injured wild elephant tries to stand after it was attacked by poachers a number of days ago at the foothills of Pancharatna hills in Goalpara district of lower Assam, India, Monday, Dec. 10, 2012. The poachers cut off two tusks and the tail of the elephant, who is now expected to survive, according to local animal officials. (AP Photo/Anupam Nath)

  • Indian forest officials, on domestic elephants, try to push an injured wild elephant after it was attacked by poachers a number of days ago at the foothills of Pancharatna hills in Goalpara district of lower Assam, India, Monday, Dec. 10, 2012. The poachers cut off two tusks and the tail of the elephant, who is now expected to survive, according to local animal officials. (AP Photo/Anupam Nath)

  • An Indian forest official tries to feed an injured wild elephant with bananas after it was attacked by poachers a number of days ago at the foothills of Pancharatna hills in Goalpara district of lower Assam, India, Monday, Dec. 10, 2012. The poachers cut off two tusks and the tail of the elephant, who is now expected to survive, according to local animal officials. (AP Photo/Anupam Nath)

  • An Indian forest official tries to feed a banana to an injured wild elephant after it was attacked by poachers a number of days ago at the foothills of Pancharatna hills in Goalpara district of lower Assam, India, Monday, Dec. 10, 2012. The poachers cut off two tusks and the tail of the elephant, who is now expected to survive, according to local animal officials. (AP Photo/Anupam Nath)

  • An Indian forest official throws water on an injured wild elephant to clean it after it was attacked by poachers a number of days ago at the foothills of Pancharatna hills in Goalpara district of lower Assam, India, Monday, Dec. 10, 2012. The poachers cut off two tusks and the tail of the elephant, who is now expected to survive, according to local animal officials. (AP Photo/Anupam Nath)

  • An injured wild elephant tries to eat a banana leaf with its trunk after it was attacked by poachers a number of days ago at the foothills of Pancharatna hills in Goalpara district of lower Assam, India, Monday, Dec. 10, 2012. The poachers cut off two tusks and the tail of the elephant, who is now expected to survive, according to local animal officials. (AP Photo/Anupam Nath)

  • An injured wild elephant struggles as it tries to drink water from a mud puddle after it was attacked by poachers a number of days ago at the foothills of Pancharatna Hills in Goalpara district of lower Assam, India, Monday, Dec. 10, 2012. The poachers cut off two tusks and the tail of the elephant, who is now expected to survive, according to local animal officials. (AP Photo/Anupam Nath)

  • In this photo taken on Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2012, Malaysian customs officers pose as they display elephant tusks which were recently seized in Port Klang, outside Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Malaysian authorities have seized 1,500 elephant tusks in a $20 million shipment that was believed to have been headed to China. (AP Photo)

  • In this photo taken on Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2012, Malaysian customs officers pose as they display elephant tusks which were recently seized in Port Klang, outside Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Malaysian authorities have seized 1,500 elephant tusks in a $20 million shipment that was believed to have been headed to China. (AP Photo)

  • IMAGE DISTRIBUTED FOR WWF-Canon - Mba Ndong Marius, a Parcs Gabon Eco Guard, holds up a poached leopard skin in front of a collection of seized elephant tusk ivory and weapons on Monday, June 25, 2012, in Gabon. More than 1,000 rangers worldwide have lost their lives protecting wild places and protected species in the last ten years, according to the WWF. Perceived by organized criminals to be high profit and low risk, the illicit trade in wildlife is worth at least US$ 19 billion per year, making it the fourth largest illegal global trade after narcotics, counterfeiting, and human trafficking, according to a new report commissioned by WWF. Besides driving many endangered species towards extinction, illegal wildlife trade strengthens criminal networks, undermines national security, and poses increasing risks to global health, according to the WWF report, Fighting illicit wildlife trafficking: A consultation with governments, which will be unveiled today at a briefing for United Nations ambassadors in New York. (WWF-Canon/James Morgan via AP Images)