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Want to Save the Earth? Start By Saving an Elephant 


In the midst of escalating crises which include dwindling biodiversity and the rampant effects of climate change, never has it been more clear that we need to protect elephant species. This includes ensuring they have the space to roam free. For what good does it do to save them (or any animal for that matter) if it doesn’t have a place to live? Not only do elephants symbolize so much to us as a human species, but they hold a critical means to our biodiverse and ecosystem survival.

It is evident that humanity struggles to save elephants from the same threats that human behavior itself has created. Habitat loss, poaching (more than 650 pieces of ivory were recently seized in Mozambique), and human-wildlife conflict, ravenously threaten the species’ survival, leading to the death of tens of thousands of elephants annually. In fact, over the last decade alone, global elephant populations have plummeted by approximately 30%. This is an alarming wake-up call and one that clearly signals that we are not doing enough to contest the extinction of this keystone species. 

So, what solutions can we offer beyond an attempt to prop up declining population numbers? We must adjust our thinking, enhance our understanding, and recognize elephants for their role as ecosystem engineers essential to healing the escalating imbalance we experience on this planet. The species is critical in supporting biodiversity and revitalizing essential forest ecosystems. 

When it comes to their sheer enormity and appetite, elephants are often dubbed ‘green machines’, eating 300-600 lbs. of vegetation every single day. As they traverse miles of terrain, they pass undigested seeds through their gut and return them back to the environment in the form of dung. This seed dispersal allows elephants to actively diversify forest ecosystems, solidifying their role as one of the planet’s most effective gardeners.   

But that is not all. Elephants also shape their landscapes. While browsing the forest for twigs, bark, and fruits, they tear down branches with their muscular trunks and trample thorny brush onto the forest floor. Our first inclination would be to see this as a wholly destructive act, but ironically enough, it is quite the opposite. It sets off a brilliant cycle of growth and rebirth. The immense network of paths created by elephants allows other terrestrial animals greater access to additional food and water resources, ultimately supporting the continued health of a functioning biodiverse ecosystem. 

And here’s one more ‘selling point’. While treading through thick brush, elephants thin out young, weaker trees competing for natural light, water, and space. The trees that are left behind ultimately grow taller and stronger, developing the ability to store more carbon from the environment. More trees, more carbon storage—often referred to as ‘carbon sequestration’.If elephants were to go extinct, central and west African rainforests will likely lose significant amounts of their carbon-storing ability—a colossal disaster not only for Africa’s forest ecosystems but for our collective efforts to mitigate the effects of climate change.

A live elephant is worth more than a dead one and every individual elephant holds value for our planet, including a clear channel to tackle climate change.

So if you’re interested in helping to save the planet, start by helping to save an elephant. You can learn more at the IFAW website.

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