African elephant…an endangered giant

Although African elephants It is the largest land mammal on earth, but has been in danger of extinction in recent decades due to overfishing for its tusks. These tusks, which elephants use for communication, food, digging and fighting with males in the mating season, brought with them a curse that has not ended to this day. Hunters ambushed these elephants to finish them off and kill them to extract their tusks, which are sold at high prices and then turned into artifacts that decorate the walls of homes. What has happened to the African elephant in the last thirty years and have attempts to protect it succeeded or is it still suffering?

African elephants are larger than their Asian elephant cousins Males reach a height of 3 meters and weigh around 6,000 kilograms, and their ears are extremely large. There are two types of African elephants: savanna and forest elephant. Savannah elephants are distinguished by their large size and their tusks are noticeably curved outwards, and they roam the plains of sub-Saharan Africa; As for forest elephants, they are smaller and have straighter tusks and live in the forests of central and western Africa. African elephants roam, in general, through 37 African countries, using their tusks to communicate and deal with things, as a tusk can actually be considered a long nose that is used for smelling, breathing and screaming, as well as for drinking. The tusk alone contains about 40,000 muscles. The latest estimates highlight the widespread decline of African elephant populations across Africa. Forest elephant populations have declined by more than 86 percent in 31 years, while savannah elephant populations have declined by at least 60 percent in the past 50 years. Both species have suffered a sharp decline since 2008 due to a significant increase in overfishing, which peaked in 2011. The ongoing conversion of habitats, mainly to agricultural and other land uses, is another major threat.

African elephants are one of the main species which play an important role in the ecosystem; They are known as “ecosystem engineers”. During the dry season, they dig dry riverbeds with their tusks and create watering holes from which many animals can drink. Their dung is full of seeds, which helps plants spread throughout the environment, and is an ideal habitat for dung beetles. In the forests, elephants create paths for the movement of small animals; In the savanna, trees are uprooted and saplings eaten, which helps keep the landscape open for plains animals to live on.

Elephant ears radiate heat to cool down But sometimes the heat is just too much. So, elephants love water and enjoy bathing by sucking water through their trunks and splashing it on themselves. Then he sprays the leather with a dust protectant. Elephants eat roots, grass, fruit and bark; An adult elephant can eat up to 136 kilograms of food per day. These hungry giants don’t sleep much and roam great distances in search of the food they need to sustain their massive bodies. Since elephants eat a lot, they interact with people more and more. Where an elephant can destroy an entire crop season in one night. Therefore, many conservation programs work with farmers to help them protect their crops and provide financial compensation when attacked by elephants.

Elephants are “maternal”, meaning they live in groups led by females. The mother is at the head of a multigenerational herd that includes other females, while adult males, called bulls, usually roam alone. Elephants also have a longer gestation period than any other mammal, up to approximately 22 months. At birth, elephants weigh about 90 kilograms and are about one meter tall.

By the beginning of the 20th century, the population of African elephants had fallen to 10 million, and as poaching continued, their numbers fell to 1.3 million, according to data from 1970.

Poaching for the ivory trade is the biggest threat to the survival of African elephants. Before Europeans colonized the African continent, according to some estimates there were as many as 26 million elephants. By the beginning of the 20th century, the number of these elephants had declined to 10 million, and as poaching continued, their numbers declined to 1.3 million, according to data from 1970. In the years that followed, poaching continued to threaten both species, with elephants in the savanna, a 30 percent decline between 2007 and 2007 and 2014; And forest elephants declined by 64 percent from 2002 to 2011, with poaching worsening in Central and West Africa. And in 2021, the International Union for Conservation of Nature classified these elephants as a separate species for the first time, listing savannah elephants as endangered and forest elephants as critically endangered.

African elephants are also losing their habitat as the population grows And people are turning huge areas of land into cultivation and development. Elephants need a lot of space, so the destruction and fragmentation of the habitat makes it difficult to find food and water, and brings elephants into forced confrontation with people. African elephants are protected to varying degrees in all countries within their geographic range. They are also protected by international environmental agreements, including CITES and the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species. There have been recent attempts to re-regulate the international trade in ivory, but not to the required level. Conservation groups and governments set aside land for wildlife, including trails that connect protected lands. However, researchers believe that up to 70 percent of the elephant’s range is on unprotected ground.

In order to reduce overfishing, Stopping the illegal trade is crucial, as advocates have campaigned on both the supply side (poaching) and the demand side (people buying ivory). Some progress has been made in recent years, especially on the demand side. In 2015, China – believed to be the world’s largest illegal ivory market – agreed to a “near total” ban on domestic ivory trade. On the supply side, protecting elephants from poaching also requires a local approach. A 2019 study found that the suffering of elephants is linked to the suffering of people living near them, as areas with high levels of poverty and corruption are more prone to poaching rates. This suggests that helping communities develop sustainable livelihoods can reduce the temptation to poach.

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