And How Humans Have Affected Them
Cape Henlopen High school
Endangered Elephants: And How Humans Have Affected Them
Elephants are amazing and extremely intelligent animals. They have played a huge role in economics, religion, culture, entertainment, and the environment. Even though elephants are very useful animals to us and the environment in which they live, we take them for granted and mistreat them which has led to their endangerment.
Throughout history, elephants have been valued by many different civilizations. Some civilizations treated the elephants as if they were gods, and in some others they were symbols of royalty. Elephants played a large role in the Hindu religion, seen in the god, Ganesha, who has the head of an elephant. Elephants have also been used in circuses and festivals for our pleasure and entertainment. Elephants are also very valuable for their ivory, a hard creamy-white substance found in their tusks. The need for ivory and habitat loss has caused the elephant populations to decrease dramatically over the past few decades. In 1930 there were between five and ten million African elephants in Africa, but by the end of 1979 there were only 1.3 million (Rainforest Aliance. 2018). By 1989, elephants were added to the international list of endangered species. At that time, there were about 600,000 elephants left in Africa. Asian elephants are even more endangered than African elephants. In the beginning of the twentieth century, there were approximately 200,000 Asian elephants left. Today, there are about 35,000 through 40,000 remaining.
The Asian elephant weighs about 5,000 pounds and can range from nine to ten feet tall. This type of elephant is humpbacked and has a massive domed head. Its ears are smaller than the African elephants, and are close to the shape of India. Usually Asian elephants are found in forests. The African elephant’s weight ranges from 14,000 to 16,000 pounds, and can reach up to thirteen feet tall at the shoulder (Kasnoff, 2018). They are sway-backed and have a narrower head. The shape of the African elephant’s ears match up to the shape of the continent of Africa. An African bull’s tusks can weigh up to 160 pounds and grow to about twelve feet long (Kasnoff, 2018). However, most of these large elephants have been killed for their ivory. Most of the African elephants live on the Savanna, while others live in forests or desserts. Both African and Asian elephants are herbivores. They eat grass, foliage, branches, fruit, tree bark, and twigs. Elephants spend the majority of their day eating, and they consume around 400 pounds of food a day. The elephants have four teeth to assist them with all this eating. Elephants need around 50 gallons of water to drink each day. They also have the largest nose in the world which serves as a natural hose with a six gallon capacity (Kasnoff, 2018).
Role in Environment
Elephants do many things in the environment which both humans and animals rely on, such as, tearing down trees, breaking apart bushes, generating salt licks, digging waterholes, and producing trails (Kasnoff, 2018). Elephant droppings also play a big role in the environment. They serve as a source of food to birds and baboons who scavenge out the undigested seeds and nuts from the dung (Kasnoff, 2018). It also serves as a reproduction zone for dung beetles. Their droppings, which are rich in nutrients, replenish the bad soil. It also allows for some seeds to germinate, which will not do so unless they have gone throughout the elephants digestive system.
Cause of Endangerment
Habitat loss is a major cause of endangerment. In order to survive, elephants need a large habitat because they consume a lot. Human population has increased greatly, therefore the majority of the forests and Savanna is now home to crops, livestock, and houses for the people. As the human population increases, the elephant’s habitat decreases. Since the elephants have less space to roam freely, they are known to destroy villages and crops. The locals are afraid of the elephants and they see them as pests, so if they are seen they are usually shot. Some countries even have a program in which they kill a specific number of elephants to keep these problems under control. Overexploitation is another cause of the elephant’s endangerment. Once Europeans arrived in Africa, the elephant population decreased drastically because they became valuable to hunters. Elephants were also killed for their ivory. Ivory trade in the 1970’s was a big threat to the elephant population (Kasnoff, 2018). Today, hunting elephant is illegal in many parts of Africa. However, poaching was still used by many locals in order to make money. In the 1980’s ivory was about 100 dollars per pound. Governments even sold ivory in order to pay for weapons and machinery during the civil war (Kasnoff, 2018). Poaching has caused the elephants population to decrease greatly and has ruined the social structure of the elephants. Because poachers kill the biggest elephants for their large tusks, it leaves the young elephants with no parents to teach them the basic skills of survival.
To help preserve the elephants, national parks have been established in order to protect the elephant’s habitat. Also, in 1990, ivory trade was prohibited in most countries other than Zimbabwe, South Africa, Botswana, and a few others. Even China, the number one consumer of ivory, has promised to lessen its legal ivory trade (Frontier Gap, 2014). Nearly thirty states have taken action to ban ivory sales with their borders. Also, there are businesses such as Ivory Ella, which donates ten percent of their proceeds to save elephants.
In conclusion, elephants are very important to the environment, but we took them for granted and overexploited them which caused them to become endangered. We should strive to preserve the elephants and restore their population as much as possible. We should stop being cruel and worrying about ourselves and what we want, but remember the pain and suffering it inflicts on the elephants.