Did you know, elephants are the largest land mammals on earth!? Another fun fact about elephants is that both male and female African elephants grow tusks and each individual can either be left or right-tusked like we are left or right-handed! These fascinating animals were once common throughout Africa and Asia, however their wild population has declined significantly during the 20th century. While some populations of African elephants are expanding, primarily in southern Africa, numbers are continuing to fall dramatically in other areas, particularly in central Africa and parts of East Africa.
With an estimated 415,000 elephants left on the continent, the species is regarded as vulnerable, although certain populations are unfortunately being poached towards extinction. Asian elephant numbers have dropped by at least 50% over the last three generations, and they’re still in rapid decline today. With roughly 40,000 left in the wild, this species of elephant is officially classified as endangered. In recent years, at least 20,000 elephants have been killed in Africa each year for their tusks which are then sold on the illegal ivory market. In 1989, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) banned the international commercial trade in elephant ivory, poaching rates dropped following the action, but continue to go through surges depending on demand.
Today, the greatest threat to African elephants is wildlife crime, while the greatest threat to Asian elephants is habitat loss. Elephants are continuously losing their habitats and ancient migratory routes due to expanding human developments such as agriculture and the construction of infrastructure such as roads, canals, and fences. There are some signs of hope, major elephant populations in Namibia, South Africa, and Zimbabwe have remained stable or are slowly increasing, meaning the conservation efforts being made are working.
If you want to help protect these beautiful, endangered creatures, here’s a few things you can do;
- Try to limit your palm oil use and make sure to purchase certified sustainable palm which can help to limit the conversion of Asian elephant habitats into palm oil plantations.
- Be mindful of industries that use elephants for entertainment such as circuses, zoos or elephant riding experiences abroad. Make a difference by boycotting circuses that use animals and by avoiding zoos that offer insufficient space to allow elephants to live in social groups.
- You could also consider donating to one of the many wonderful charities that do incredibly important work to help save these magnificent animals, such as International Elephant Foundation, African Wildlife Foundation, Amboseli Trust for Elephants or Elefantastic Elephant Sanctuary.
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