Here’s some good news: although far from extinguished, elephant poaching in Kenya is down. At its peak, poaching claimed the lives of 96 elephants a day. Rob Brandford, the executive director of the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, reports that “in Tsavo National Park where we work, home to Kenya’s largest elephant herds, ivory poaching fell 50 percent between 2012 and 2015 thanks to dedicated and coordinated efforts by our DSWT/KWS Anti-Poaching Teams, Aerial Surveillance Unit and the actions of other NGOs.” Moreover, at the end of 2016, China announced that it plans to implement a full ban on ivory this year, which should greatly minimize the threat of poaching.
This is fantastic news, but the threat of extinction still looms because elephants are harmed for much more than ivory.
First, there are the needless killings by trophy hunters for “sport.” Then there are the elephants that are stolen from the wild or bred in captivity for a miserable life in zoos, circuses, and other so-called “entertainment” industries such as elephant rides for tourists. Many of these industries engage in rampant abuse in order to get elephants to perform unnaturally. Other capitalizing humans make use of their skin and hair for accessories such as bracelets and shoes.
We can, of course, end these activities by banning hunting; avoiding circuses, zoos, and other elephant-based “entertainment,” and by not purchasing items that contain elephant parts. But still, elephants continue to suffer at the hand of humans as their habitats are increasingly fragmented by human expansion and trade.
To save these gentle giants from the threat of extinction, we must do more than dismiss ivory and avoid buying a ticket to see them in captivity. We must come together, globally as a species, to rightfully honor and protect them.
As the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust says, “Humans are the No.1 threat to our natural environment. But, if we work together, we can also be the guardians of nature.”
You can help by supporting this trust and others like it that work tirelessly to protect elephants and their environments. Some scientists estimate that if we don’t act soon, the African elephant could be extinct from the wild within the next 20 years. It’s up to each one of us to take action in any way we can, so please share this post and encourage others to as well.
Photo credit: The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust / Facebook