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World Elephant Day: Protecting the Gentle Giants

Every August 12, World Elephant Day aims to raise awareness about protecting the largest terrestrial mammals worldwide. Elephant conservation is a pressing issue as Asian and African elephants struggle against poaching, habitat loss, and human-elephant conflict, which have reduced their numbers over the years. Read on to learn more about the cause and how to support it.

Featured in: August - Awareness Months, Days & Observances.

History and Background of World Elephant Day

elephant walking
Photo by Nam Anh on Unsplash.

With help from Sivaporn Dardarananda of Thailand’s Elephant Reintroduction Foundation, Canadian filmmakers Patricia Sims and Michael Clark launched the World Elephant Days in 2012.

They recognized the various threats befalling these animals, such as hunting for elephant tusks, habitat loss, and poor living conditions in captivity. Sims, Clark, and Dardarananda believed these creatures needed a global voice to address these issues.

The first World Elephant Day featured the film titled "Return to the Forest," with narration from William Shatner, about reintroducing captive Asian elephants to the wild.

In 2013, the Elephant Nature Park in Thailand hosted the inaugural World Elephant Day celebration. This event included an elephant art exhibition that drew attention to the challenges facing captive and wild elephants.

In 2016, the United Nations recognized the event, supported by more than 100 wildlife organizations. Together, these groups have taken action against the illegal ivory trade, and their efforts have influenced governments and stakeholders.

Today, over 100 countries worldwide celebrate this day, with more than 65 elephant conservation organizations joining the cause. 

The Cause and Its Challenges

elephanton grass field
Photo by David Clode on Unsplash.

Based on the latest IUCN assessment, the African Forest Elephant is a Critically Endangered species2. A staggering reduction, exceeding 80% of their continental population, has occurred over the last three generations.

The scenario is marginally better, yet concerning, for the other two elephant species, the African Savanna Elephant and the Asian Elephant. Classified as Endangered, they have witnessed a 50% population decrease over three generations. Sadly, all elephant populations are on a downward trend.

These daunting threats don't vary much between species. Elephant ivory poaching remains a prime threat driven by the global black market. Equally worrying is habitat loss and fragmentation, a direct effect of the expanding human population.

Human-elephant conflict is another longstanding issue involving damage to human property and, often, retaliation. As human settlements continue to infringe on elephant habitats, such confrontations are rising.

Addressing these conservation challenges is no easy task; it demands dedicated efforts. The pressing need is to develop wildlife management strategies alongside public awareness campaigns to turn around the uncertain future elephants are facing.

Why World Elephant Day Matters

elephants beside water
Photo by Wolfgang Hasselmann on Unsplash.

These majestic creatures are keystone species that can shape their environment and maintain Earth's biodiversity. 

As seed transporters, they facilitate plant dispersion over large distances up to 65 kilometers1. Their dung nourishes the ecosystem, providing sustenance for dung beetles and enriching the soil for plant growth. 

Moreover, through digging wells, elephants also play a crucial role in providing water to other wildlife. Lastly, they shape habitats, promoting forest biodiversity and maintaining savannah landscapes.

Deepen your appreciation further by visiting our list of elephant facts.

Efforts and Initiatives

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has operated worldwide for over half a century, working on anti-poaching efforts, habitat preservation, and reducing human-elephant conflicts. 

Another notable initiative is the Elephant Crisis Fund, created by Save the Elephants and the Wildlife Conservation Network. This program funds projects against elephant poaching and trafficking, stressing the need for immediate action.

There is also the "Hands Off Our Elephants" campaign by WildlifeDirect, led by Dr. Paula Kahumbu and supported by Kenya's First Lady. This has resulted in significant legal reforms for elephant protection across Africa.

Meanwhile, efforts to conserve Asian elephants include the Elephant Conservation Center in Laos, which focuses on healthcare, rehabilitation, and breeding of rescued elephants. 

Similarly, the Borneo Elephant Sanctuary in Malaysia provides a refuge for orphaned and injured elephants.

How to Get Involved and Support World Elephant Day

group-of-elephant
Photo by redcharlie on Unsplash.

You can support the cause by attending local events and making financial donations. Local zoos and wildlife organizations often organize these events; attending them provides entertainment and amplifies the cause’s visibility.

Likewise, donating to elephant conservation organizations helps fund essential research, safeguard efforts, and rescue operations.

Next, Supporting elephant protection laws is also a lifelong commitment that involves raising awareness and lobbying legislators to do something.

Moreover, starting a World Elephant Day club at schools or communities can keep the conversation going and inspire the next generation of elephant ambassadors. 

Lastly, harness the power of social media by spreading information, donation links, event info, or even an elephant quote to make more noise about this cause.

Conclusion

Despite threats like habitat loss and poaching, elephants hold a significant ecological role. Our bond with these magnificent creatures underscores the vitality of every life form. Their survival mirrors our shared future, inspiring positive actions to protect these precious animals and uphold the balance of nature. 

So, let’s put into action the goal of World Elephant Day not just on a single day but every day.

World Elephant Day FAQs

1. What is World Elephant Day?

It is an annual global event that raises awareness and promotes elephant welfare. It highlights the urgent need to protect elephants facing numerous threats such as habitat loss, poaching, and human-wildlife conflict.

2. How can I support this event?

You can spread awareness through social media, donate to elephant conservation organizations, and join local events.

3. What are some successful initiatives in elephant conservation?

There have been successful anti-poaching efforts, conservation programs, and the establishment of protected areas and wildlife corridors for elephants.

1

Bunney, K., Bond, W. J., & Henley, M. (2017). Seed dispersal kernel of the largest surviving megaherbivore—the African savanna elephant. Biotropica, 49(3), 395–401.

2

Gobush, K.S., Edwards, C.T.T, Maisels, F., Wittemyer, G., Balfour, D. & Taylor, R.D. (2021). Loxodonta cyclotis (errata version published in 2021). The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2021: e.T181007989A204404464.

Mike is a degree-qualified researcher and writer passionate about increasing global awareness about climate change and encouraging people to act collectively in resolving these issues.

Fact Checked By:
Isabela Sedano, BEng.

Photo by Patrick Baum on Unsplash.
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