There are many differences between humans and animals. Unfortunately, people have made it a point to capitalize on these differences, deligating animals to a sector of being that is below them. We use animals to pull heavy carriages, serve as the test subjects to our experiments, and of course, we use many animals for food, clothing, and other products. That perceived difference plays a crucial role in all of these things, after all, if we knew animals were just like us, would we subject them to such painful lives? Well, it turns out, that humans and animals aren’t so different after all. We may look different, but we possess similar sympathetic systems that enable us to all feel joy, fear, and pain. We all have basic social constructs and spend part of our lives with a dedicated family unit.

When it really comes down to it, the things that we have in common with animals far outnumber those we don’t. Most importantly, recognizing and respecting these similarities are key to the proper function of our global ecosystem. If we remove one being from the intricate web of living things, it has a ripple effect that can negatively impact the entire whole.

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Just take what is happening to elephants for example. It’s estimated that one African elephant is killed every 15 minutes for their ivory tusks. At this rate, many scientists believe that wild elephants will be extinct within the next 20 years. While the loss of these gorgeous animals is a tragedy in and of itself, it has a huge impact on their environment. Elephants are considered the architects of their habitat. Animals are responsible for up to 95 percent of seed dispersion over wind or water and elephants play a huge role in this.  Decreasing or completely losing the tree species that rely on elephants not only is an issue for the balance of our flora, it also affects the herbivores that feed and live in these trees such as bats, birds, insects and other mammals. Their deep footprints provide welcome “watering holes” for smaller animals, and the presence of elephants indicates the health of an ecosystem. It might not seem like it, but without a healthy, thriving ecosystem, animals aren’t the only ones who suffer – humans do as well.

While many humans are content to view elephants as valuable commodities for their ivory, there are many others who recognize the inherent worth and value of these animals – and with that, they are fighting to ensure they do not disappear from the face of the earth. David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust (DSWT) is made up of these courageous individuals who dare to see animals as family.

This little one elephant is an orphan, but he will get to grow up in a family made up of dedicated caretakers and other needy elephants.

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One thing elephants and humans understand in the exact same way is the concept of family. Elephants live in close-knit herds and the young ones rely heavily on their mothers and siblings for care and comfort in their early lives. Calves learn all the skills they need to survive from their families and ancient wisdom about where to get food and safe water is passed down from the elders to ensure the survival of future generations. Sadly, elephants who lose their parents to the ivory trade never get to experience this, so instead, human caretakers step in.

At DSWT, keepers watch over baby elephants 24/7. Little ones need everything from food to comfort, both of which their green-coated keepers happily provide for them. These kind people raise elephants until they are big enough to return to the wild and build wild families of their own. Without the people who looked after them as orphans, these elephants would be another tragic statistic about the impact of the ivory trade.

We can all stand to follow the example of the keepers at DSWT and start to see the animals around us as family, not objects free for our use. Seeing how charismatic and caring elephants are, it would be an absolute shame for them to go extinct, but that is a harsh reality we have to come to terms with if we hope to create lasting, positive change. You can help protect elephants by sharing this article and encouraging others to learn about the victims of the ivory trade. Next, ensure you never purchase anything made with ivory – when the buying stops, so can the killing.

Support the important work DSWT is doing by clicking here. To keep up to date with all the rescued elephants, follow DSWT on Facebook.

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Image source: DSWT