Elephants are majestic creatures known for their towering stature and long trunks. They are incredibly smart, and certain species are actually the largest land animals on Earth. Yet, they are facing a crisis, and humans are the cause of it.
Three species of elephants have had their populations fall in numbers. The three species include savanna elephants, forest elephants, and Asian elephants. How could this have happened? The answer lies with people. As communities build homes and roads, destroy forests, and plant crops, they've encroached on elephant territories. Even more than building on their land, people are also hunting down elephants so they can get their hands on their ivory tusks. Per National Geographic, “one estimate suggests that the African continent may have been home to some 26 million elephants at the beginning of the 19th century.” They continue to say, “Now there are as few as 415,000 elephants.” The number of wild elephants roaming around Asia is even less. They estimate there may only be around 50,000 left.
Over the past five decades, poaching has continued to increase and has had devastating effects. Poaching can lead animals to extinction. For example, more than 100,000 African elephants were killed between 2014 and 2017 for their ivory tusks. Many people like to carve the tusks into jewelry or trinkets. People also poach to turn these wild animals into exotic pets. The exotic pet trade is also dangerous because many animals are not cared for properly. They need their specialized diets found in nature and the space to roam about. Many organizations have dedicated their entire missions to stopping poaching, including WildlifeDirect, a Kenyan conservation organization. Kenyan ecologist Paula Kahumbu and CEO of WildlifeDirect’s goal is “to change the whole national consciousness about conservation.” She has recently partnered with National Geographic and Disney+ in a docuseries titled Secrets of the Elephants. The program will explore the lives of elephants in four separate habitats.
Much work is needed to be done to save elephants from extinction. Still, hopefully, with organizations like WildlifeDirect and more attention being brought to these beautiful animals, we can save our friends. Secrets of the Elephants is available to stream on Disney+ for anyone interested in learning more.