African elephants, or Loxodonta africana, is one species of elephant. It is divided into two subspecies, the African bush elephant and the African forest elephant. It is different from the other species of elephant, the Asian elephant, in many ways; for example, African elephants have larger ears. Both male and female African elephants have tusks, though only some female Asian elephants do. Elephants' prominent features include their large ears, long trunk, and tusks. The ears are used to keep elephants cool, and the trunk, actually a large nose, is used for smelling, breathing, trumpeting, and picking things up. Adult elephants eat up to 300 pounds of roots, grasses, fruit, and bark each day. Some elephants weigh almost 9 tons. These mammals live in herds and can live to 70 years old.
Why Are They Endangered?
The main reasons elephants are endangered are poaching and habitat loss. The biggest threat to African elephants is poaching. Poachers poach for the elephants ivory tusks, which are made into many miscellaneous items, including piano keys, and combs. The decline in African elephant's population started with European colonization. Before European colonization, there were about 26 million elephants on the continent. In the early 1900s, there were about 10 million elephants and in the ‘90s 1.3 million. Now, there are about 400,000. While that is considerably more than other animals, they are still vulnerable to extinction. One interesting effect of this poaching for tusks is that some African elephants adapt to not have tusks. Studies show that regions where more poaching happens have more tuskless elephants. Another reason why elephants are endangered is habitat loss. Elephants need a lot of space, food, and water to survive. People often destroy elephants’ environment which forces elephants to go to human areas. Then they are sometimes killed for destroying crops or endangering people.
African elephants are very important in keeping their ecosystem healthy, so much that they are called a keystone species. For example, they dig up dried out riverbeds with their tusks during the dry season, which makes watering holes. This not only helps them but all the animals who need to find water during the dry season. Their scat is also full of seeds, and spreads plants and feeds dung beetles. Elephants also create pathways through the forest that gives smaller animals a way to get through and uproot some trees for food which makes space for plain animals to live. When elephants habitat is destroyed for large company farms it affects people who farm because the elephants are forced to move to the farms and often destroy farms and put people in danger. When elephants don’t have enough space it negatively impacts the people who farm around them.
What Can You Do?
Trading in ivory is illegal, but there have been some efforts to make it legal again. You can support organizations that are trying to make sure it continues to be illegal to sell ivory. You can also support organizations that protect elephants and let them live in areas where they won’t damage properties and can live normally. The main thing you can do is not buy ivory. You can also raise awareness for how the elephant population has dropped and tell people how the ecosystem of and the people who live near elephants are all affected by the problems facing elephants.
"African Elephants." National Geographic, National Geographic Society, www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/mammals/a/african-elephant/. Accessed 13 May 2020.
Shoshani, Jeheskel. "Elephant." Encyclopedia Britannica, 16 Mar. 2020, www.britannica.com/animal/elephant-mammal. Accessed 13 May 2020.
"Elephant." World Wildlife Fund, www.worldwildlife.org/species/elephant. Accessed 13 May 2020.
*all pictures used with permission, and/or taken from the sites above.