This Is Why You Should Help Protect Elephants

    Posted: August 12, 2016

    Elephants: large herbivorous mammals with long trunks, sharp tusks and big, flappy ears.

    Today we are celebrating these gentle giants and their importance in the environment. Happy World Elephant Day!

    Most people’s thoughts on elephants are limited to ‘those big animals in the zoo’, but how much do they really know about these majestic mammals? After reading the late Lawrence Anthony’s book, The Elephant Whisperer, back in 2012 I changed my view on elephants and I now look at them with renewed respect and absolute admiration. This book was written following his special relationship with a herd of wild elephants on the Thula Thula Game Reserve in Zululand, South Africa. Anthony was a bestselling author, explorer, international conservationist and passionate environmentalist.

    In honour of all the elephants of the world I decided to highlight some of the best reasons why you should help protect elephants and the important role they play in the environment.

    Mind The Gap

    When elephants eat they move through the forest, breaking off branches to feed on, creating gaps in the plant life around them. This practice helps to:

    Create paths for smaller animals
    • Make space for new plants and trees to grow
    Sow seeds in the surrounding soil

    Great Gardeners

    Elephant’s dung earned them the title as “nature’s gardeners”; as elephant are herbivores their dung contains a variety of undigested seeds. When the dung is deposited:

    • More seeds are dispersed into the soil
    • Some animals, like birds and baboons, pick through the dung to eat the nutrient-rich seeds
    • It replaces nutrients in the soil to improve farmers’ crops

    Water For The Wild

    It is no secret that elephants love water and they jump at any chance to splash about, but what happens in the dry season?

    • During dry seasons or droughts elephants use their tusks to dig for water
    • This water source helps both the elephants and other animals to survive

    If we consider the size of an elephant it is obvious that their footprints leave deep holes in the ground.

    Elephant’s footprint serve as ‘holes’ where rain water can collect in

    Photo: snarglebarf/Flickr 

    Communication Is Key

    Elephants are some of the most intelligent mammals on the planet and are capable of showing strong emotions. If you have ever been privileged enough to observe elephants in the wild, you will know their communication smacks of masterfulness.

    • Elephants often communicate with each other through low frequency sounds that humans cannot hear
    • These infrasonic sounds can travel over long distances and often serve as warning messages
    • Not all communication is done via infrasonic sounds
    • An elephant’s mood determines the pitch of the sound it utters
    Physical contact is also a key characteristic of elephants and they will oftentimes be seen ‘hugging’ each other with their trunks
    • When they sense danger they freeze to alert others of a threat

    Say No To The Elephant Tourism Industry

    Seeing that we’re on the topic I couldn’t help to throw in my two cents. If you have ever considered to:

    Ride and elephant,
    Visit a zoo, or
    Watch an elephant show, kindly reconsider as you’ll be doing more harm than good

    Photo: Amila Tennakoon/Flickr

    As much as I admire the skills of these creatures and the dedication of their trainers, how ethical is it to have animals on display for our entertainment and benefit?

    If there is one thing I disapprove of it’s the unnatural capture and taming of wild animals, whether an elephant or a bird. To me, the only good cage is an empty cage.
    ― Lawrence Anthony

    Why not join an animal care volunteer program, because without the survival of animals like the elephant, be it African or Asian elephants, there will be adverse changes in the environment. This is why you should help protect these beautiful creatures for future generations to come.

    Find out more about GVI’s international, award-winning volunteering programmes and internships! Choose from a variety of community development, animal care, teaching, women’s empowerment and conservation projects worldwide!