Frequently we look at iconic species in isolation not thinking how the African Elephant is important to its ecosystem.
One might ponder: How the African elephant is important to its ecosystem. Or even ask: Are African elephants essential to humans?
The African Elephant’s Status
The African elephant’s current conservation status is vulnerable. The key concerns of the decline of African elephant populations are habitat loss and poaching. An African elephant is dominant in its environment and provides a serious impact on the ecology by removing trees, trampling grasses, creating watering holes, and improving soil condition. Also, they are important to the African culture.
Currently, Africa as a continent is losing its most valuable mammal to poachers and wildlife trafficking. African elephants are known as the keystone herbivorous species of the Africa.
The African elephant’s natural habitats are geographically located in south, central, and east Africa in dense forest and deserts. Their natural habitats are affected by a popular practice, poaching for personal meat and sale in the illegal ivory trade.
Elephants are large animals that need space to live, reproduce and maintain a balance for other species and humans in their environment. Forest elephants are more threatened than the savanna elephants due to an increase in illegal logging that results in their habitat loss.
The Elephant’s Biggest Threat
One of the absolute biggest threats is the purpose of poaching to illegally acquire the elephant’s ivory. Then the elephants’ tusks are sold to dealers, shipped to Asia, where their ivory is used to make materialistic items for profit. The rising wealth in Asia contributes to the poaching since now more people can afford ivory. Consumers need to realize the horrible, devastating impact their buying habits have on the African elephant .
The Important Role Elephants Play
Most people do not know about the African elephants’ important role as a “horticulturist” in the African ecosystems. Elephant droppings act as a fertilizer, which is import to improve the soil condition. The elephant’s dropping serves a purpose for animals such as baboons and birds, who pick through the droppings for seeds and nuts. The nutrient-rich manure from the droppings replaces nutrients to depleted soils to help farmers improve their crops. African Elephants that live in the forests are known as the “gardeners”. Their droppings act as a form of seed dispersal which creates a high plant diversity.
The African elephant’s other role is to pull down trees and break up thorny bushes. As a result, they create grasslands and salt licks in order to make other animals’ lives easier to survive in their environment. Their final role is that they create water holes by digging in dry river beds. This role helps other animals and also tribes to gain access to watering holes which is used as an important water source.
Elephants are of great cultural importance to Africa. For example, African elephants appear in jewelry such as rings and bracelets that are made from elephant’s hair to ward off evil spirits or magic. In African fables, African elephants are viewed as the wise leaders, who settle debates among the other forest animals.
Africans also believed that the African elephants were human leaders from their past life. In part of African history, a popular belief from the Ashanti tribe of Ghana if they found a dead elephant lying in the bush. The Ashanti tribe believed that they should stop and take time to give the dead elephant respects by giving him a proper burial.
As humans we should act by changing the conservation status of the African elephant.
We can make a difference for these elephants.
First, don’t buy ivory products like jewelry, carvings, statues and such.
Second, look for organizations that specialize in conserving African elephants to see how you can help. (Click here for our researched list)
Third, learn how Nikela helps Lynn and her team of ranger scouts protect elephant in a forgotten forest in Malawi.
Fourth, get passionate about saving Africa’s beauties and share this blog post.
Contributed by Nikela Volunteer Monserrat Gomez
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