Elephants are the big animals that make cute, huge babies that everyone adores. Unfortunately, many species of elephants, including the African elephant, are in danger of becoming extinct. This is due in large part because they’re hunted for the precious ivory their tusks are made of. In the meantime, elephants have been trying to keep doing the work they do best: carefully landscaping their surrounding habitats to facilitate growth and rejuvenation. Elephants are more capable than they appear, and it’s best to be aware of their abilities so that we can better take care of them.
Why they are important: African elephants help to maintain other species’ habitats. They are the landscapers of their home in the African Congo Basin; as they roam they open up woodlands, allowing for new plants to grow. The African elephant also plays a prominent role in the dispersal of seeds. They are able to spread the larger seeds that smaller animals cannot.
What is the problem: The African elephant is currently classified as “Vulnerable” by the World Wildlife Foundation. At their healthiest level, there were around four million African Elephants, now there are approximately 600,000 left. Sadly their geographical range has been cut in half in the last 45 years and specific populations of the elephant have become fragmented.
Why they are going extinct: The elephant’s numbers are decreasing due to many reasons, the most significant of which is poaching. This has historically been a problem for elephants, as many hunt them for their valuable ivory. In addition, commercial logging and the construction of plantations for biofuels have reduced the elephants’ habitats. These reductions lead to the elephants being forced into smaller spaces, taking away their freedom. The reductions also lead to more human-elephant contact, which leads to conflicts that elephants almost always lose.
How we can help: The African Elephant plays a vital role in its ecosystem. Here are three ways you can help save it:
- Donate and support conservation efforts. There are a number of organizations working to protect the elephants and their habitat, and donating to any of them will help.
- Don’t buy ivory. Supporting the illegal ivory trade fuels the demand for elephants. Even buying antique ivory fuels this trade, so it is best not to buy ivory at all.
- Buy products that are Fair Trade, so that you know no elephants were sacrificed during their production! Recently many plantations have been formed on the elephants’ habitats and by buying Fair Trade you ensure that your products don’t come from those plantations.
Want more of The Endangered? Check out the growing list of articles on our Wildlife page.