World Elephant Day was a couple days ago, August 12, and was started in 2012 in an effort to raise awareness for the plight of elephants. This holiday helps bring the world together to help support and protect these majestic creatures from harms way. A signal of strength in Africa, the mighty elephant is revered by thousands, and yet faces very real threats from the outside world. Elephant numbers have dropped 62% over the last decade and an estimated 100 African elephants are killed each day by poachers. In addition, Asian elephants are also in trouble: there are fewer than 40,000 left in the entire world, which to put into perspective is one-tenth of the African elephant population. But, we cannot lose hope.
What’s threatening our elephants?
Elephant-human conflict and habitat loss are some of the biggest issues facing Africa’s elephants. Because a vast amount of elephant habitat still extends beyond protected areas, it continues to be lost to humans’ rapidly developing agricultural industry. When passing elephants damage crops, this can lead to anger from locals, who will sometimes retaliate by killing them. The other main, perhaps more well-known, threat is poaching and hunting, with tens of thousands of elephants killed every year for their tusks and as trophies.
Never buy ivory products
A high demand for ivory has resulted in a huge increase in poaching throughout Africa over recent years. Help to lower the demand for ivory by not buying any ivory products in South Africa or abroad.
Avoid elephant-back safaris
The chance to get close to elephants, and even ride them, is an almost irresistible temptation for many travellers. But what many of the companies offering elephant rides in Africa don’t tell you about is the training involved in making the elephants complacent enough to be ridden. Many of these elephants are trained with bull-hooks and sticks to ‘break’ them into submission. They are also sometimes taken away from their mothers at a young age – a cruel act for an animal that is so emotionally mature. Help look after our elephants by steering clear of these kinds of activities altogether.
Support pachyderm protectors
While most of us would love to pack up our bags, leave it all behind and spend our days caring for the wildlife of the world, unfortunately this dream will remain just that for all but a lucky few. This doesn’t mean that you can’t help though. You can still support organisations that are committed to elephant and wildlife conservation through a donation. Volunteer programmes such as SANParks Honorary Rangers work hard to protect and monitor wildlife in South Africa. Donate and help to make a difference.
World Elephant Day asks people from around the world to support conservation policies to help elephants, including improving enforcement policies to prohibit the illegal poaching and ivory trade. Conserving elephant habitats, providing better treatment for captive elephants and reintroducing captive elephants back into sanctuaries are a few ways we can help keep these beautiful animals around for generations and years to come.