Wildlife experts warn the African elephant could become extinct by 2040, as the animals population declines from 5 Million in 1950 to as little as 410,000 remaining today.
There are very few beasts in the animal kingdom that can command the power and strength of the African elephant, with its over 150,000 muscles working in motion to move the six-tonne fully grown animals.
Apart from being the largest land animal to walk the earth, elephants also have the largest brains with three times more neutrons than humans.
Elephants are amongst the most intelligent animals alongside chimpanzees, demonstrating their mental capabilities and problem solving abilities in the wild.
Observers have witnessed elephants in the wild creating tools out of their surroundings to reach fruit on tall trees and their remarkable ability to empathise and comfort each other, hence them being referred to as gentle giants.
According to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) the African and Asian elephants have seen a radical decline in the 20th venture. This decline has been largely fuelled by the growing demand for ivory, otherwise known as the elephants tusks. The illegal wildlife trade and habitat destruction continue to threaten the species.
The WWF’s mission is to “stop the degradation of the planet’s natural environment and to build a future in which humans live in harmony with nature.”
On the black market elephant tusks can sell for up to US$3,000 per kilogram and some tusks can weigh upwards of 80kgs.
The demand doesn’t stop for the elephants tusks as demand for elephant skin, teeth, trunks and genitals are on the rise in parts of Asia, which in turn equates to less elephants in the wild.
Although poaching is illegal and has a maximum prison sentence of life behind bars in South Africa, poachers still take the risks for the financial gains. Poachers are able to kill large numbers of elephants in a day due to the animals living and migrating in large herds. On a single day in January poachers entered the Mago national park in Ethiopia and killed upto six elephants, removing all their tusks.
Currently there are an estimated 410,000 African elephants and 50,000 Asian elephants left in the world. These elephants all play an essential role in the environment than no other animal can replicate, when elephants move around and feed in their environment they create clearings in wooded areas which is what allows plants to grow and forests to regenerate naturally thus giving other animals a place to survive and thrive.
There are currently countless organisation working to save the elephant from extinction. Through it’s elephant adoption program the WWF has been able to help countless elephants by protecting and managing key elephant habitats while enabling agriculture, forestry and various other forms of land-use in a clearly planned and sustainable manner.