Elephants have a complex consciousness that makes them capable of strong emotions besides being one of the most intelligent creatures on earth. They inspire respect from people with whom they share the habitat as shown by notable cultural significance accorded to them. These icons of the continents they are found in attract tourists. They also attract funding that besides championing for the creation of their idea habitats protect the entire wilderness and game reserves. An elephant also serves as a keystone species and play a crucial role in preserving the biodiversity of the ecosystem.
Elephant, the largest living land animal, belongs to the family of Elephantidae. It is characterized by a long trunk composed of drawn-out upper lip and nose, large head containing temporal glands, wide and flat ears, and columnar legs. The animals have greyish to brown color while their body hair tends to be coarse and sparse. Mostly found in grasslands, savanna and forests elephants occupy a broad range of habitats that include swaps, deserts, and tropical and subtropical highlands.
Habitat loss happens to be one of the major threats facing elephants. Many climatic change studies show that key proportions of their habitats will become substantially drier and hotter resulting in unfavorable foraging conditions that threaten calf survival. Additionally, conflict with humans increases as human populations increase. People living close to their habitats continually take over their land as poaching for ivory additionally place their future at great risk.
Importance of elephants
They play several roles in the ecosystem which other species cannot replicate. For instance, in dry regions, elephants can smell water that is close to the surface of the earth and even use their tusks to dig waterholes in such places. Their large bodies also create trails through thickets that
would otherwise be impassable. The dung the animal produces has many natural applications including spreading plant seeds and providing nutrition to insects and baboons.
To the economy
Zoos attract more tourists and bring more revenue when they have elephants because it is a species that many people stand no chance of seeing outside of a game reserve. In countries in which they are found, foreign exchange can be generated by organizing safaris so visitors can see them in their habitats. Given their massive size, the animals are simply a wonder to behold implying they are profitable to a nation’s tourism.
To the workforce
Human beings have been taming the animals for several years and using them to provide labor in a variety of ways. Up to 1960s elephants have been used as the beast of burden of choice and in wars. In India, elephants are still used to date. Their power is harnessed for demanding jobs like forest clearance and log hauling. Since they are more agile and less prone to breaking down, elephants are relatively more economically worthwhile for heavy tasks in certain areas.
There are approximately 550,000 elephants in Africa while in Asia, with a population of about 45,000 animals, the situation is even dire. Their numbers are declining fast due to various malicious activities like poaching for ivory, habitat loss, degradation and conflict with humans. Given their importance both to the environment and human life everyone should play an active role in protecting the vital species. Authorities should also support community based organizations formed to protect the animals.
By: Joni Kim