Seeing an African elephant in its natural habitat is one of the most beautiful things you’ll ever see. Weighing up to eight tons, elephants are the largest land animals on earth. They have astonishing strength, are gentle in nature, exhibit an obvious sense of self-awareness, and they are in danger. Elephants are threatened by poaching, conflict and habitat destruction. We can’t afford to lose these majestic creatures, and we must take action to help protect them.
The greatest threat to elephants is poaching. They are killed for their tusks – which can demand $20,000-$135,000 each on the black market. In 2013 more than 20,000 African elephants were killed – and the population of elephants in Central Africa has fallen by 60% over the past 10 years.
We must take action to elephant populations. Here’s why:
They teach us about family
Elephants form deep family bonds and live in tight family groups called herds. Each herd is comprised of related females (males leave the herd between the ages of 12- 15) and is led by a matriarch who is often the the oldest and the largest female. .
…And that good things come to those who wait
Elephants have the longest gestation period of any mammal (22 months) and only have calves every 4-5 years. Once the calf is born, there is an immediate bond, the baby stays with its mother for years and is cared for by all the females in the herd.
They are resourceful
Elephants know how to maximize their assets! Take the trunk for instance – it’s extremely dexterous and used for picking up objects, sounding the alarm, saying hello, drinking and bathing.
…And recognize the importance of healthy eating
Elephants are herbivores and consume “hundreds of pounds of plant matter” each day. In order to support their dietary needs, elephants require extensive amounts of food, water and space.
Elephants are crucial for other animals and ecosystems to maintain balance
Elephants are integrally tied to biodiversity. For instance, many seeds need to pass through an elephant’s digestive tract before they can germinate. The World Wildlife Fund says that at “least a third of tree species in central African forests rely on elephants in this way for distribution of seeds.”
Just by walking around elephants create clearings and gaps in the vegetation. This both encourages tree regeneration and reduces “bush cover to create an environment favorable to a mix of browsing and grazing animals.”
…And they’re just flat out beautiful
Don’t you agree?
To help protect elephants, consider supporting groups like the World Wildlife Fund. They are actively fighting poaching and “advocating to end commercial elephant ivory sales in the US and other major markets like China, Thailand, and Hong Kong” – action that they consider to be “the most effective and efficient solution to end this illegal ivory trade.” If we cut off the end markets, and subsequent demand, we can make measurable strides in discouraging the killing of elephants.
By Bailey Schroeder, ResQwalk Founder + CEO