Elephants are the world's largest land mammals, with massive bodies, large ears, and long trunks. Elephant populations, which were once common throughout Africa and Asia, have declined significantly over the last century. Poaching for the illegal ivory trade poses the greatest threat to African elephants, while habitat loss and the resulting human-elephant conflict pose the greatest threat to Asian elephant populations.
While you might be wondering why they should be saved and what makes them so special , here are 5 facts about elephants that you might not know :
- Elephants play a critical role in shaping their habitat, influencing forest composition and density, dispersing seeds, and altering the overall landscape.
- Elephants in tropical forests create clearings and gaps in the canopy that promote tree regeneration. They reduce bush cover in the savannas to create an environment favourable to a mix of browsing and grazing animals.
- Many plant species' seeds in central African and Asian forests require passage through an elephant's digestive tract before they can germinate. It is estimated that elephants are responsible for the distribution of seeds for at least one-third of the tree species in central African forests.
- Elephants contribute to the preservation of forest and savanna ecosystems for other species and are intimately connected to a diverse biodiversity. Elephants play an important role in ecosystem engineering.
- They create pathways through dense forested habitat to allow other animals to pass. An elephant footprint can also support a micro-ecosystem, which can house tadpoles and other organisms when filled with water. As keystone species, they contribute to the biodiversity of the ecosystems in which they live.
Elephants require large amounts of land to survive and meet their ecological needs, which include food, water, and space. In a single day, an elephant can feed for up to 18 hours and consume hundreds of pounds of plant matter. As a result, as they lose habitat, they frequently come into conflict with humans over resources.
Human-elephant conflict not only causes negative interactions and losses of income, property, and lives, but it also reduces community tolerance for elephant conservation. Addressing complex issues like human-wildlife conflict necessitates approaches that address not only the immediate consequences of negative interactions, but also the drivers and root causes of the conflict.
On the IUCN Red List of threatened species, African elephants are classified as "vulnerable," while Asian elephants are classified as "endangered." According to one conservationist, both African and Asian elephants will become extinct within the next twelve years. As animal lovers, let us pledge - to raise awareness of the plight of African and Asian elephants, to share knowledge and positive solutions for better care and management of captive and wild elephants, and to contribute to their conservation.