World Wildlife Day Wisdom Series (4 of 8)Begin
It's false! There are actually two species of elephant - African and Asian. African elephants are found in 37 countries on the African continent, while Asian elephants are found in 13 countries in South and Southeast Asia. Asian elephants are smaller than their African counterparts, and only some males have tusks. In contrast, both male and female African elephants grow tusks.
Elephant herds are matriarchal, meaning they are led by the oldest, most experienced female. A herd will consist of related females and their young - males will leave the herd when they reach puberty and typically live alone or in small bachelor groups.
False! An elephant's trunk is indeed very powerful - capable of lifting heavy trees and logs - but it is also very sensitive! Containing approximately 150,000 individual muscles, their trunks have great dexterity and allow them to pick up items as small as a peanut!
It's true! Elephants are good swimmers, and can swim with their body completely submerged underwater, using their trunk as a "snorkel." They have even been observed swimming at sea, out from the shore!
Around 90% of the African elephant population has been lost in the past century, affected primarily by poaching and the illegal ivory trade. Despite the international ban on ivory trade, it is estimated that every day, 55 African elephants are killed for their tusks. China remains the biggest consumer market for ivory, although demand has declined thanks to the announcement of a ban on ivory trade within the country on December 31, 2017.
False. Though Asian elephants are poached much less frequently for their tusks than their African relatives, they are still under significant threat. In fact, there are much fewer Asian than African elephants left in the wild today. Asian elephant populations have fallen by at least 50% over the last three generations, and only around 45,000 remain today.
While all of the above pose a threat, habitat loss is the biggest threat to Asian elephants today. Asia is the world's most densely populated (and fastest-growing) continent in the world, and human activities have destroyed crucial Asian elephant habitat - from large development projects to build dams, roads, and mines, to the clearing of forests to make way for agriculture and human settlements.
Elephants used to roam across most of Asia, but now they’re restricted to just 15% of their original range. Habitat loss due to human development has fragmented elephant populations and cut off their ancient migratory routes. This has made them more likely to come into contact and conflict with humans, raiding and damaging farmer's fields.
Elephants are not the only species at risk. Countless other animal and plant species depend on natural spaces to thrive yet are losing their habitats and the biodiversity within them at an alarming and unprecedented rate. Add your voice to call on world leaders to take urgent action to protect and restore nature.