The second annual World Elephant Day returns on 12 August 2013 to raise awareness of the threats these intelligent giants face and how you can get involved in the conservation and protection of both African and Asian elephants.
Elephants are much loved and admired for the most part and indeed elephants are considered sacred animals in many cultures especially throughout Asia. Yet this humble creature is on the brink of extinction following decades of illegal poaching, loss of habitat and conflict with humans. Barely a day goes by without sickening news reports of elephants senselessly slaughtered to fuel the illegal ivory trade, which was outlawed in 1989.
Support African Elephants
The WWF campaign to support African Elephants – which is the biggest land mammal on earth – estimates that 470,000 and 690,000 creatures remain. Elephant conservation is further hampered by a fragmented habitat; their numbers are spread thinly across 37 different countries within the sub-Saharan region. Conservation of the two subspecies, the savannah elephant and forest elephant is essential to Africa’s continuing rich biodiversity. Basically their place in the ecosystem is absolutely vital to maintain local habitats for a wide variety of endemic wildlife, flora and fauna.
If you need any further reason to get involved, take a look at these alarming statistics from WWF;
Due to widespread poaching elephant populations were halved between 1981 and 1989
Between 1950 and 1985, illegal ivory exports grew from 200 to 1,000 tonnes per year
Support Asian Elephants
WWF also works to raise awareness of the Asian Elephant species which live in the tropical forests of Asia. The three subspecies – Sri Lankan, Indian and Sumatran – live across Indochina, India, Malaysia and Borneo. The Asian elephant is found in small pockets across 13 different countries, where it’s estimated that 41,000-52,000 remain in the wild (2003 figures). This graceful animal is classed as endangered, except for the Sumatran Elephant which is classed as critically endangered, following the destruction of over 70% of its habitat in the last 30 years. Logging and agriculture are the main threat to Asian elephants and you too can get involved via WWF.
World Elephant Day 2013
You can get involved with World Elephant Day this year and learn more about these fascinating creatures via the official website. In conjunction with the Elephant Reintroduction Foundation, travellers are urged to shun the illegal ivory trade and support the natural and protected sanctuaries that exist across the world.
Where to see elephants in the wild
The best way to experience the natural wonder of elephants in sustainable environments is to take a safari in designated National Parks with a local tour operator that respects these key principles. The best place to spot African Elephants is in Botswana’s Chobe National Park and Okavango Delta where around 70,000 live in the world’s largest population. Other locations in Africa include the Kruger National Park in South Africa. Which is home to the Big 5; Selous Reserve in Tanzania and the Tsavo National Park East in Kenya, which is home to the red elephant.
And in Asia, elephants can be spotted in the wild at Hongsa in Laos where the centuries old tradition of elephant-assisted logging still takes place. Meet the mahouts that form an unbreakable bond with their charges in Chiang Mai in Thailand and around 250 Sri Lankan elephants live in the Udawalawe National Park in southern Sri Lanka.
Tom Hardy gets involved with Poaching Wars TV Series
Hollywood movie actor Tom Hardy immerses himself in the poaching wars that exist in Africa in his new TV series. He tracks wardens and conservation experts as they fight to preserve both elephants and rhinos from the brink of extinction. Make sure you watch this two part series which is in hour-long segments.
Image Credits; 2; Bamse, 3; Chermundy