Save the Elephant Day 2021

Save the Elephant Day 2021 is celebrated on April 16th. A day to honour and raise awareness of these magnificent animals. Furthermore, elephants are the world’s largest land mammal roaming throughout Asia and Africa. Unfortunately, the elephant population has decreased in African and Asian continents by 62% over the past decade. For this reason, elephants could become extinct by the end of the next decade (IUCN RedList of Endangered Species) (IUCN). 

Herd of elphants, Hwange, Zimbabwe
Save the Elephant Day 2021
Magnificent herd of African elephants living life in their natural habitat, Hwange, Zimbabwe

Approximately 100 African elephants are poached and killed daily for ivory tusks, meat, and body parts. The current number of African elephants remaining in the wild is 415,000.  This is due to approximately 90% of the African elephant population being poached and killed in the past century.

Magnificent African elephant
Save the Elephant Day 2021
Magnificent African elephant

The Asian elephant (Elephas maximus) roams over 13 Asian countries. With less than 40,000 remaining in the wild, Asian elephants are now considered endangered. It is hoped that Save the Elephant Day will reverse this trend.

There are three species of elephants: Asian elephant, African forest elephant and African bush elephant. While forest elephants tend to be smaller, bush elephants, on the other hand, are larger and have straighter tusks pointing downwards.

Elephants heading to the waterhole at the end of the day, Somalisa Camp, Hwange, Zimbabwe
Save the Elephant Day 2021
African elephants living happily in the wild heading to the waterhole at the end of the day, Somalisa Camp, Hwange, Zimbabwe
Elephant facts
  • They can be right or left tusked, the same as humans being right or left-handed
  • Elephants are highly intelligent, and have the largest brain of all animals 
  • They live in herds of up to 100 individuals, one female being the matriarch who will oversee them all
  • Elephants throw mud and dirt on their backs to prevent getting sun burnt
  • One African elephant is killed every 15 minutes by a poacher
  • Walking speed is around 1.5 km/h, and they can run up to 38 km/h
  • An elephant skin is around 2.5cm thick
  • Their upper incisor teeth develop into tusks and continue to grow throughout their lifetime
  • Elephants in entertainment centres are subject elephants to harsh and cruel treatment
  • Captive reproduction programs do not increase the elephant population
  • Around 75% of adult elephants that are used in elephant tourism were also poached from the wild
  • Most of illegal ivory is sourced from African elephants  
  • Around 35,00 African elephants are poached for their tusks annually, mainly for traditional Chinese medicine
  • Asian male elephants are poached for their tusks for jewellery carving, and their skin.
Why are elephants at risk of extinction?
  • Ivory trade
  • Exploitation
  • Trophy hunting
  • Habitat loss
Ivory trade

Despite a worldwide ban on ivory, the ivory trade continues. However, elephant ivory tusks return a massive price on the international black market. In addition, the ivory trade and animal body parts continue.

China is the main recipient of the African Ivory Trade
China is the primary recipient of the African Ivory Trade (photo courtesy of WWF)
Zimbabwe stockpile of elephant ivory
A Zimbabwe National Parks official inspects the country’s ivory stockpile at the Zimbabwe National Parks Headquarters in Harare in June. A new survey shows a rapid decline in Africa’s savanna elephants, as international and domestic ivory trades continue to drive poaching across the continent (photo curtesy of News Public Radio NPR.org)
Elephant exploitation 

Frequently, elephants are beaten into submission with bullhooks, bamboo sticks spiked with nails, and electric prodders. In addition, elephants are deprived of sleep, food and water. Elephants are confined to small spaces in the hope of crushing their spirits. Young elephants are taken from their mothers and subjected to horrific lives.  

Bullhooks used to traumatise elephants into submission for the tourism industry
(photo courtesy of billhook.com)
Pain and suffering

It is essential to realise that elephants are forced to have to endure the weight of heavy, poorly designed seat carriers. As well as the combined weight with humans on their backs for eight or more hours. This eventually leads to spinal injuries and severe pain. In addition, the heavy seat carriers chafe their skin, causing blisters, infection, and extreme discomfort. Therefore, save the elephants from a life of hardship by boycotting any elephant entertainment.

Indian elephants subject to horrific treatment at Amber Fort, Jaipur, IndiaSave the Elephant Day 2021
As shown above, elephants are subject to horrific treatment. Amber Fort, Jaipur, India
Abused elephants at Amber Fort, Jaipur, India

Save the Elephant Day 2021
Abused elephants at Amber Fort, Jaipur India

While subjected to long periods of walking and standing, causing wear and tears on the elephant’s feet. Consequently, this leads to foot injuries, infection, severe pain, and lameness.

They are drugging elephants with amphetamines to keep their energy levels up and forcing them to work for extended hours. 

Young elephant calf chained to its mother in Thailand
Save the Elephant Day 2021
Baby elephant chained to its mother (photo courtesy of World Animal Protection)

Equally as important, elephants are social animals and need their family connections. As a result, they feel pain, sadness and sorrow. In addition, the practice of chaining young elephants to their mothers for long treks is prevalent. This severely distresses the young elephants who are denied access to nursing from their mothers. Consequently, they cannot walk at the same pace or for long periods.

When not riding or trekking elephants are kept chained up, deprived of food and water
The elephants are chained up for hours
(photo courtesy of news.com.au)
Elephant cruelty in India

(photo courtesy of Norman Watson/Mercury Press)
Elephant Entertainment Industry

As an illustration, the above photo demonstrates how severe psychological and physical pain and stress can manifest.

Dishonest tour operators also falsely claim that their elephants are treated humanely. The elephant entertainment industry is part of the multi-billion-dollar global wildlife trade. Before Covid-19, the captive elephant tourism industry generated between U$D581 – U$D770 million annually.

Map of commercial elephant venues in Southern Africas
(photo courtesy of World Animal Protection)
Trophy Hunting

Similarly, trophy hunters and other organisations claim that hunting and killing elephants is a conservation. In reality, this is just an excuse to justify their cruel and financially motivated actions. Of course, hunting has nothing to do with saving or respecting wildlife. Above all, it has everything to do with perverted, brutal, sadistic pleasure in needlessly taking the life of an innocent animal.

Elephant trophy hunters (photo courtesy of CBS News)

Another critical point is that elephant trophy hunters pay thousands of dollars to shoot, hunt and kill elephants and other wildlife. Animals have no chance to escape these brutal people. Furthermore, the hunters gain immense pleasure in watching innocent animals die with their bullets and crossbows. In effect, the slower and more painful death gives these hunters more pleasure. Finally, hunters will chop off the dead animals’ heads, taking them home as atrophy. Ultimately, trophy hunting must be banned forever.

Habitat loss

Sadly, African elephants have lost more than 50% of their habitat over the past thirty years. For, Asian elephants their habitat has been reduced to only 15% of their original range. 

Expanding human populations encroaching on elephants habitats with more land reclaimed for new homes, roads, and agriculture has significantly increased human-elephant conflict. With the elephant habitats declining, there is less food available for them to eat. As a result, hungry elephants raid farmers crops and wander into villages to eat from community gardens. In turn, farmers shoot the elephant to prevent them from crop-raiding. In addition, roads, railways, and pipelines for human settlements have caused many elephant habitats to become fragmented and much smaller. Therefore separating herds from one another and no corridors for elephants to mix with other elephants or gain access to food and water. It also affects elephant breeding opportunities with restricted access to maintain genetic diversity.

Human Elephant Conflict

There were 2361 human lives lost and 510 elephant lives lost between 2014 – 2019 in India. These were due to vehicle accidents, electrocution, poaching, shooting, and poisoning. For example, some farmers fill their fruit with poison and firecrackers and erect high voltage electric fencing to kill elephants. 

Elephants forced to share roads with vehicles due to fragmented habitats
Elephants have to share roads with vehicles due to fragmented habitats (photo courtesy of National Geographic)
Fragmented habitats are forcing elephants to share dangerous roads
(photo courtesy of World Atlas)
Deterants

The human presence is a deterrent for elephants as they prefer to raid farms when there are no people around. However, it requires people to remain in the field for 24 hours/day to guard their farms. Trip alarms do work to alert farmers to chase elephants away. However, the best invention so far is beehive fences. These fences were first trialled in Kenya and were very successful as elephants don’t like bees. Beehive fences are low cost, affordable, and easily managed and adapted to local conditions. Coupled with farmers producing their honey, wax and pollen, which supplements their incomes. Bees also serve as pollinators for crops and contribute to a healthy ecosystem. Educating locals to protect, respect and care for the elephants and find ways to cohabit with elephants in their villages is also working. 

Elephants crop raiding
Save the Elephant Day 2021
Elephants raiding farmers crops (photo courtesy of The Guardian)
Beehive fencing for elephants
Save the Elephant Day 2021
Beehive fencing (photo courtesy of butterflies.org)
What can we do to prevent extinction and cruelty of elephants?

Say NO to elephant rides and attending circuses.  

For one thing, observe elephants in a reputable eco-friendly zoo or their natural habitat on a safari.  Enjoy watching elephants interacting with their herd, having dust or water bath. Only support ethical ecotourism travel companies who now remove elephant rides and circuses from their tours.

Elephant cruelty is synonymous with Thailand. Although there has been a 70% increase in the number of captive elephants in the past ten years, other countries (India, Laos, Nepal, Cambodia, Malaysia and Sri Lanka) and are not far behind. 

Elephant cruelty in Thailand
Save the Elephant Day 2021
Elephant cruelty in Thailand (photo courtesy of ViraLife)
Tourism and the elephant

Studies have shown that 63% of these elephants suffer severely cruel conditions.   Africa also offers commercial elephant rides and experiences, and their elephants also undergo the same brutal breaking in the process as used in Asia. Africa also has captive breeding centres that breed elephants for sale to Asian elephant parks for tourism. It is a very lucrative business, and young elephants generate U$60,000 per individual.

For many tourists, the highlight of their trip is to have an elephant ride, swim or have a selfie with an elephant. All the while, unaware of the cruelty inflicted on these animals for a few minutes of pleasure.  

Tourism holds power to make necessary changes for elephants by not supporting any captive elephant entertainment hoping that they will remain in their natural habitats.

elephant rescue

Releasing elephants back into the wild following the captive entertainment industry is not always possible. Elephant-friendly camps or refuges will be the only option for some.  These safe refuges care for the released elephants. It provides a natural habitat, allowing observation-only experiences for visitors. Funds raised support the upkeep of these rescued elephants. It also provides jobs for local conservationists willing to care for these traumatised elephants. Finally, elephants can live out their lives in peace and safety.  

Do not buy anything made from ivory and report any stores that sell ivory products. 

Conservation

Conservation programs are operational in the wild, such as tracking device collars.  More conservation rangers, sniffer dogs are being trained to keep watch over elephants and wildlife parks.  Allocation of more protected areas for elephants with access to ample food and water. Establishment of safe elephant sanctuaries to live freely and safely.

Volunteer programs are available for people to travel and rehabilitate captive elephants at sanctuaries. As a result, close monitoring of the elephant population reduce ivory trafficking, reduce the demand for ivory.

Declining elephant population map
Map of the decline in elephant population
Elephant living happily in its natural habitat, Mana Pools Zimbabwe
Save the Elephant Day 2021
Elephant living happily in its natural habitat, Mana Pools Zimbabwe

Ultimately, it is everyones responsibility to save our elephants from harsh and cruel lives.

Warning: video contains distressing content.

References

https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-40501667

https://www.worldanimalprotection.org/news/tourists-choosing-elephant-bathing-over-elephant-riding-unaware-cruelty-involved

https://www.worldanimalprotection.us/blogs/facts-about-elephants

https://www.all-creatures.org

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/aug/12/a-taste-of-honey-how-bees-mend-fences-between-farmers-and-elephants-aoe

https://veer.li/10726

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