1. ELEPHANTS PARTICIPATE IN THE CREATION OF FORESTS
Sounds like something we did not know, right? So let’s go deeper on it! How is this posible? The answer actually is quite simple: elephants are seed-dispersers.
These animals love to eat fruits from the trees, but they do not digest the seeds. So when they defecate, their droppings become a highly ecological dung, that allows them to spread the seeds over long distances while roaming.
For many years this has permitted new trees and plants to grow, increasing the density and diversity of the forests in Africa. Some plant species even depend exclusively on this behaviour to disseminate.
Elephants help to keep the ecosystems healthy.
2. ELEPHANTS ARE ECOSYSTEM ENGINEERS
Elephants not only participate in the renewal of forests, they are also a keystone specie for the existence of other animals in the wilderness.
By pushing and modifying trees while they eat, they create pathways for other species and gasps in the vegetation that allow light to pass, creating new life and opening areas that grassland animals use to live.
In dry season, they dig holes in the ground to get water onto the surface, helping other creatures to access it too. And by eating the fruits and leaves from the trees, they create refugees and even provide nests for smaller species, while they help animals like warthogs and baboons to gain access to the fruits that feed them.
And pay attention because this is really cool. In some places of Africa, even people follow the movements of elephants when looking for water, and depend on them to find it when there is no rain.
3. ELEPHANTS CAN FEEL
Elephants are more similar to humans than you could think. They live in strong family units, and scientists have discovered that they can show compassion, and even grieve their dead.
The level of emotions that elephants express is more similar to ours than to any other animal on earth. Many researches have proved their capacity for empathy, and have discovered that they assist each other in moments of danger or difficulties.
Elephants react to distress, feel fear and are highly aware of what happens around them. They can even distinguish different languages and recognise different persons. Isn’t this enough reason to care? Hold on, there is even more.
4. EVERY TIME AN ELEPHANT DIES, A HUMAN IS IN DANGER
This is not only because elephants are crucial for the survival of forests all around the world (and we need forests to live), but because ivory trade has become the most lucrative business of this century.
We tend to think that animal problems are not as important as ours. We already have wars to care about, plus terrorism threats and so many other problems. Isn’t overwhelming? Don’t we have enough things to care about already?
Maybe. But the problem is these are not separate conflicts. Did you know that ivory trade is currently more profitable than drug trafficking, or raw diamonds trafficking. Extremist criminal organisations act through very complicated international networks, and it has been proven that they are using ivory as a funding source.
If you want to read more about it, Dr. Richard Buggiero, chief of the Africa Branch of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Division of International Conservation, along with two coworkers, deepens on this subject here here.
It may almost sound unreal, but it is happening right in front of our noses.
5. EVERY 15 MINUTES AN ELEPHANT GETS KILLED
We got to the final reason, and no, it is not a joke. Sadly, it is also not an overreaction. Every 15 minutes an elephant gets killed for his ivory.
According to the African Elephant Status Report 2016, there are nowadays less than 500.000 specimens remaining in Africa, drop caused mainly by poaching, since 2006. It is the worst decline in the elephant population since the 70’s.
Actually, this may already be an optimistic number. According to the latest Greatest elephant Census, there are only 352,271 left.
Elephants are being wiped out from the face of the earth. In Mozambique, one of the two more affected countries in Southern Africa, the situation led to a request, in 2015, to prepare and implement a National Ivory Action Plan. As quoted in the African Elephant Status Report 2016 (you can download it here), that same year, 2.4 tonnes of ivory were destroyed from the national stock-pile.
Niassa, one of the largest reserves in Africa, and a strategic area to preserve elephants, is nowadays one of the most affected areas. There are no more than 3.500 elephants left, compared to around 13.000 that were alive in 2009.
What about the rest of Africa? 9 years ago conservationists warned that if the slaughter doesn’t stop, elephants could face extinction.
Now that we finished with the list, we would just like to add a few more words.
There comes a moment when enough is enough. And that moment is now. If we do not understand that as human beings we have a responsibility towards each other, with our future generations and children, we just will not make it on the earth.
This is currently the only planet that we have, and to keep it alive, we need the other species that share it with us to survive. Elephants are powerful animals, but on their own, they are defenceless against poachers.
Like it or not, may it be an easy or a hard path, these animals are crucial to preserve the biodiversity of some of the last wilderness in the world.
And it is in our hands to see that our children inherit this, or to destroy it. Whatever we do, either we decide to act, or to forget about this, there will be consequences for humanity.
So, on what side of history do you want to be?