We admire elephants in part because they demonstrate what we consider the finest human traits: empathy, self-awareness, and social intelligence. But the way we treat them puts on display the very worst of human behavior.” ~ Graydon Carter
If you’re feeling a bit of deja vu reading this post, you’re half right. It was only two days ago that I wrote about World Lion Day. Unfortunately, there are so many animals that are tragically nearing extinction in the wild that there is no time to waste on an “appropriate” waiting period.
So today I bring you World Elephant Day, 24 hours dedicated to urging the world to help in the fight against the obliteration of Asian and African Elephants.
Some things you should know….
- Elephant numbers have dropped by 62% over the last decade, and they could be mostly extinct by the end of the next decade. An estimated 100 African elephants are killed each day by poachers seeking ivory, meat and body parts, leaving only 400,000 remaining.
- An insatiable lust for ivory products in the Asian market makes the illegal ivory trade extremely profitable, and has led to the slaughter of tens of thousands of African elephants. Between 2010 and 2014, the price of ivory in China has tripled, driving illicit poaching through the roof. If the elephants are to survive, the demand for ivory must be drastically reduced. As of 2011, the world is losing more elephants than the population can reproduce, threatening the future of African elephants across the continent.
- The Asian elephant is endangered with less than 40,000 remaining worldwide.
- Wild Asian elephants suffer severe habitat loss in some of the most densely human-populated regions on the planet. Their traditional territories and migration routes have been fragmented by development, highways and industrial mono-crops such as palm oil and rubber tree plantations, which has destroyed millions of hectares of forest ecosystems. With no access to their natural habitat, elephants are forced into deadly confrontations with humans where neither species wins.
- Elephants are a keystone species. It means they create and maintain the ecosystems in which they live and make it possible for a myriad of plant and animal species to live in those environments as well. The loss of elephants gravely affects many species that depend on elephant-maintained ecosystems and causes major habitat chaos and a weakening to the structure and diversity of nature itself. To lose the elephant is to lose an environmental caretaker and an animal from which we have much to learn.
Things you can do
- Study elephants in their “keystone” role in the environment and interrelationships with plants and other animals because all of nature is interconnected.
- Learn about and support organizations that are working to protect habitat for wild elephants and finding solutions for human-elephant conflict.
- Support organizations that are working to stop the illegal poaching and trade of elephant ivory and other wildlife products.
- Support organizations that are protecting wild elephant habitat.
- Support organizations that are building natural sanctuaries and alternative habitat for domesticated elephants to live freely.
- Do not support organizations that exploit or abuse elephants and other animals for entertainment and profit.
- If you wish to experience elephants in their natural environment, choose eco-tourism operators who support local elephant conservation projects and who treat elephants with respect and dignity.
- Support healthy, alternative, sustainable livelihoods for people who have traditionally relied on elephants, wild animals and natural resources. Learn about indigenous cultures that have traditionally lived in harmony with elephants.
- Be an elephant aware consumer. Do not buy ivory or other wildlife products.
- Be aware of elephant habitat. Do not buy coffee that is not fair-trade or shade-grown, nor products with palm-oil. These commercial crops are grown in plantations that have decimated elephant habitats. Only buy wood products that have been certified by the Forest Stewardship Council, which promotes responsible management of the world’s forests – the natural habitat for elephants and other wildlife.
- Talk about elephants at your school. Initiate an elephant study group to share knowledge and ideas about the plight of elephants and what can be done to ensure their survival into the future.
- What do you love about elephants? Their intelligence, empathy and caring for one another are just a few of their qualities. Embrace these qualities and live them in your own life.
**** Elephant facts and information on how you can help from the World Elephant Day Website