African Elephants have been one of my favorite animals since I was about 3 years old. They have incredible intelligence, strength, and courage. Their breathtaking size and elegance is enough to make anyone love these giants. But now, they are in trouble. In just three years, 100,000 African Elephants were killed for their ivory. In 2011, one out of every twelve African Elephants was killed. The population of elephants has decreased by 64% in only a decade, and they are dropping fast.
Here is a table of population decline (approximate):
1930: 5 million
1980: 1.3 million
The demand for ivory is found mostly in China and in other Asian countries. As of now, there is a U.S ban on the commercial trade of ivory. Botswana, Namibia, and Zimbabwe banned ivory sale as well. Finally, CITES, an organization directed to help the African Elephant, approved a worldwide ban of ivory trade in 1989. However, this wasn’t enough. Poaching rates are worse than they were in 1989. From 2009-2014, 170 tons of ivory were illegally sold. The price of ivory also grew from $5/kg to $2,100/kg.
When the elephants are killed, most family groups lose their matriarchs, which stresses the balance and functioning of the herds. Younger elephants usually die without their mothers. Because the elephant only gives birth to one elephant at a time, it has been harder to the elephants to regenerate.
When more of the elephant population dies out, there is less genetic diversity, which leads to more loss. Elephants are also vital in the African ecosystem, for they balance the life of other species. They open forest land to create firebreaks and grasslands; they are responsible for a large percentage of animal seed dispersal; and they can create water access for other animals. Without elephants, many other animals would start to disappear as well.
In order to help the elephants, individual countries need to ban ivory trade at a domestic level. People also need to be educated about the poaching, in order to get rid of the demand. A survey in China found that 70% of the people from the survey thought ivory came from already dead elephants from sources like their teeth.
Spread the word to help save the African Elephant.
“The elephant is a friend to man more than the dog […] And now indeed our turn has come to be the friend of the elephant.” – Paul Hippeau