By: Milaena Hamilton
Can you imagine a world without elephants? How about a day when children will learn about them only in a state of extinction like their ancient predecessors: the Wooly Mammoths? It may surprise you to hear that this day is frighteningly close with some major wildlife conservation organizations predicting that the majority of the earth’s elephants will be extinct in the next two decades.
Thirty-five years ago in 1979, African Elephant populations were estimated to be at 1.3 million which itself was drastically down from about 10 million at the start of the 20th century. Today, those numbers are even smaller at less than 400,000 due largely in part to anthropogenic (human-related) causes. According to the Wildlife Conservation Society’s 96 Elephants campaign, poachers kill 96 elephants per day in Africa in order to sell their tusks in international markets. This continues despite a 1989 ban on the ivory trade from the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). Last year, CITES’ research revealed that 22,000 African elephants died as the result of poaching in 2012.
Similar declines are evident in Asia where there are only 40,000 Asian elephants left, and 30% of those elephants live in captivity, as reported by the World Wildlife Fund.
To put a spotlight on the insurmountable damage poaching, habitat loss, and other factors impose upon the elephant populations in Africa and Asia, the Elephant Reintroduction Foundation launchedWorld Elephant Day in 2012. Celebrating its third year on August 12, 2014, World Elephant Day's main goal is “to help conserve and protect elephants from the numerous threats they face.”
So what can you do this World Elephant Day to spread awareness about the plight of the world’s largest land mammal and give these species a chance at survival? Here are five great places to start:
1. Support the cause from home. The first step to helping elephant conservation efforts is to prevent the sale of ivory and lessen its value as a commodity in countries around the world, but you can start the change by advocating locally. Sign a petition and write to your local legislators telling them that you want laws passed that stop the sale of ivory in your state. Of the 50 states in the USA, only one has done just that with New Jersey’s Governor Chris Christie signing a bill banning the sales statewide on August 5, 2014.
2. Go Grey! Many zoos and organizations participating in the 96 Elephants campaign and World Elephant Day events are encouraging elephant lovers to wear grey for the day and share their “Elphies”--selfies with real elephants, photographs, or homemade artwork-- on social media sites like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram using #elphies.
4. Learn more fascinating elephant facts and share them with friends, family, and even strangers you may meet. For example, did you know that an elephant drinks up to 50 gallons of water per day and has an innate ability to find and dig for it underground? The holes they make are often used by other animals to quench their thirst in dry seasons.
Impress others with your knowledge by checking out 10 Things You Should Know about the Elephant Crisis and the Summer of Fun Safari elephant profile.
5. Go elephant watching on Animal Planet L!VE’s newAfrican Watering Hole Cam. Located in Kenya, one of the countries with the largest surviving elephant population, this cam brought to you by the multimedia organization explore.org and the Mpala Research Centre and Wildlife Foundation puts you in the midst of their native habitat. During its online hours between 11:30pm and 12:30pm ET, you may catch a glimpse of elephants and other animals coming to this bustling watering hole for a drink. At other times, enjoy highlights of recent elephant visits.
On August 12th, Explore.org will also hold a special live chat at 12pm ET with renowned elephant expert Simon Hedges of the Wildlife Conservation Society. Make sure to tune in!
There's no time to waste. Honor the earth's majestic giants and take a stand against poaching today on World Elephant Day!