Elephants are a large land mammal best known for their long trunk. There are two species of elephants: the African elephant (sometimes separated into two species) and the Asian elephant. These two species of elephants share many similarities, but are not found in the same regions. Unfortunately, both of these species are listed as threatened by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. The Asian elephant is listed as endangered and the African elephant is listed as vulnerable. Let’s find out what makes these animals endangered and what is being done to protect them.
Why are elephants endangered?
Bothe species of elephants are endangered for different reasons. The African elephant was long hunted for their ivory tusks, which was a sought after material for many uses. Despite a ban on ivory trade in 1990 illegal poaching is still a problem in some African regions. As the human population expands and encroaches on the elephants habitat there are sometimes conflicts that lead to the death of elephants or loss of habitat.
The major threat to the Asian elephant is loss of habitat due to deforestation. This occurs to make way for human development or for the use of the wood (logging). Smaller threats to this species include poaching for ivory, isolation of populations and conflicts with humans. Another danger to this species is the tourist industry as some baby elephants are taken from their mothers and cruelly trained to carry or put on a show for tourists. This training often includes torture and it is estimated that up to two-thirds may die during this process. In addition to this, the mother elephant is often killed so that her calf can be removed. As humans move into their habitat elephants also kill people and destroy crops, which leads to conflict where elephants are sometimes killed.
Fortunately the plight of both species of elephants is generally well known locally and throughout the world. Local governments understand that the elephant is a key species for many reasons. Protection of these species includes international laws to protect the species, public awareness, habitat conservation and restoration, and resolving conflict.