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Endangered Species: the African Elephant

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It is known that around the world are many species which are going on an “endangered” status because of different reasons that impact on them in a negative way. One of these species are elephants. According to Elephants (2019), during the 20th century, the number of African elephants decreased due to ivory trade. Even though some elephant populations are now stable and reproducing, problems like poaching, habitat degradation, conflicts with humans and illegal ivory trade are still affecting them.

The African elephant, which is one of the largest mammals on earth, stands out for its massive body, large ears and tusks, which are common in both genders. According to Save the Elephant (2016), this genus is divided in two species, “forest” and “savanna” elephants which are different one from another. “Forest elephants are smaller, weighing half what savanna elephants weigh”.

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These mammals are led by a matriarch and positioned into complex social structures of females and calves, rather than the males, that tend to live isolated. Furthermore, a single calf is born every 4 to 5 years after being carry by its mother for 22 months, making this the longest gestation period on any mammal.

Elephants (2019) claims that elephants need a spacious land surface to survive because of the hundreds of pounds of herb they consume in a single day. Therefore, elephants place a big demand on the environment and usually confront people for resources.

Save the Elephant (2015) examines that, in less than a decade, the number of African forest elephants went down in a 62 percent because of poaching and civil strife. “The most urgent threat for them is, poaching, which supplies the illegal trade of ivory”. In this century, there were two massive waves of poaching; one during the 1970s and 1980s and one more, at the beginning of 2009. During the first big poaching, and approximate of 7.4 percent of elephants were killed every year, leaving fewer than 600,000 individuals from a population of 1.3 million.

Both species, savanna and forest elephants, are on a “threatened” status, that is less protective than “endangered” which means that there are not many species left, and the ones that are still alive are in risk of going extinct. In fact, there should be half a million forest elephants remaining, sadly, there are between 50,000 and 100,000 individuals left, and around 400,000 savanna elephants. “Without elephants, Africa´s landscape would be unrecognizable”.

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) introduced the ban of international trade in 1989, and this helped some African elephants’ populations to recover. Despite this prohibition, several elephants keep getting killed for their tusks. A demand for ivory in Asian countries has upsurge poaching and illegal ivory trade, making the number of forest and savanna elephants decrease. “The ivory is often carved into ornaments and jewelry”. The biggest consumer of these products and largest market is China. The price of ivory in the black market in 2002 was between $120 and $170 per kilogram, and on 2010 this price increased to $750 Save the Elephant.

Other danger that elephants are going through is habitat loss; and one of the factors inside this is fragmentation. Help save elephants (n.d.) explains that with overpopulation comes infrastructure development. The expansion of human settlements such as the construction of buildings, railways and roads are the reasons of the reduction of their habitats, therefore decreasing the amount of grass that they consume, since they are herbs. Furthermore, this causes elephant groups to separate, making their breeding chances diminish “This is not healthy for the genetic diversity of the elephant population”.

According to Help save elephants (n.d.), another factor on elephant’s habitat loss are conflicts with people who surround their habitats. As Africa´s population grows, elephants rangeland, where they tend to roam, is converted to agriculture, and this land becomes a target for elephants that are looking for food. “A year´s crop can be wiped out in a single night, creating understandable resentment”. If elephants and farmers confront each other, both can be severely affected and get killed. Also, the constant livestock grazing in the elephant´s land is decreasing the amount of food for elephants, and this increases the chances of herders being attacked by nervous elephants.

Although all these threats elephants are going through, action is already being done. WWF organization is doing research and monitoring by establishing protected areas within elephant ranges. Help save Elephants (n.d.) reports if the United States gives any legal status under the Endangered Species Act can be very beneficial to both forest and savanna elephants. Some of these benefits are preventing them from being sold in the United States and preventing the government from paying for actions that hurt the elephants. In addition, it can supply research and public education with funds.

Endangered listing would be helpful to the import, export and sale of the product made with ivory in the United States. After China, the United States is the second biggest market for ivory, using the legal trade in old ivory as a cover for illegal trade of new one. “Last month, a Chinese wildlife official pledge to end the ivory if the United States does too”. If this happens, it could lead to a transformation of how two of the largest economies are handling animal poaching.

Elephant (2019) presents that there are organizations that are already taking action to help this mammal. The World Wildlife Fund is working with TRAFFIC, the international wildlife trade monitoring network, to decrease the threats African elephants are exposed to, such as the illicit domestic ivory markets. Also, World Wildlife Fund is working with governments, locals, and non-governmental associations to assure the development and reproduction of African elephants. “We support and work to maintain conservation landscapes like KAZA, which is home for almost 250,000 elephants”.

To conclude, African elephants should be protected from hunters that killed them for their tusks. Moreover, the trade of ivory in the United States and Asian countries must be stopped in order to keep both forest and savanna elephants alive and keep procreating to increase the number of African elephants and change their “endangered” status. Finally, there must be measures on how far the farmers can expand to avoid encountering the elephants and prevent conflicts to happen.

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