“An elephant never forgets,” a famous saying that holds undeniable truth as we uncover about these gentle giants. They exhibit intellectual capability distinguishing them from others in the animal kingdom, from remembering specific people to mapping complex migration routes across hundreds of kilometers. The fact that they can still remember these specifics even decades later proves their survival and reveals the astounding intelligence and emotional complexity of these majestic beings – elephants.

Highly respected and valued in many societies because they represent wisdom, strength, and strong family connections. They play important roles in folklore, myths, and religious stories, deeply connecting them to human culture and history. With a human body and an elephant’s head, symbolizing the strength and intelligence of elephants, lord Ganesha is widely worshiped as the remover of obstacles and the god of wisdom and intellect in Hindus. Thai culture considers them a national symbol of good luck, prosperity, and power. African folklore celebrates elephants as wise and noble creatures, believed to bring blessings and good fortune to communities. In ancient Egypt, elephants were linked to strength and royalty, depicted in art, and embraced as symbols of power by pharaohs (kings). In many tribal cultures, elephants are considered sacred animals and are deeply respected for their intelligence, social bonds, and role in the ecosystem.

Elephants’ impact extends far beyond their numbers, influencing the entire ecosystem they inhabit. They modify habitats, create water sources, and disperse seeds through their dung, supporting biodiversity and ecosystem health. Their extensive migration patterns help maintain ecological balance and nutrient recycling. Also, they indirectly regulate predator populations and influence vegetation composition. Just like the keystone i.e., the central stone that holds all the other stones in place and is essential in providing structural support in architecture, elephants are keystone species. They play a critical role in maintaining the structure and functioning of an ecosystem. Protecting and conserving these magnificent creatures is vital for their survival and maintaining the health and balance of the ecosystems they inhabit.

Are you curious about the fascinating story of the survival of the elephants? Don’t miss the chance to explore their incredible journey through this small article.

The Battleground for Elephant Conservation

Underneath the ideal portrayal of these majestic creatures roaming ‘wild and free’ in their natural habitat lies a harsh reality of threats that put their survival at risk.

Numerous elephants are killed every year for their priceless tusks as a result of the relentless illegal ivory trade, which continues despite international bans. Rapid human expansion encroaches upon their natural havens, causing habitat loss and fragmentation, pushing these magnificent beings into smaller ‘homes’ (territories), where they face heightened conflicts with humans.

The landscapes that elephants have known for years are shifting due to changing climate patterns, which adds another layer of uncertainty and affects their access to vital food and water supplies. An alarming possibility of disease outbreaks, with the frightening threat of the Elephant Endotheliotropic Herpesvirus (EEHV) looming over elephants, mainly Asian elephants.

Taxonomy in the wild
Photo credits from top to bottom: peapix.com, “Elephant family in Amboseli National Park, Kenya” by Diana Robinson/Getty Image, used under CC0 license/modified from original, Wikimedia Commons “African Bush Elephants, Amboseli National Park” by Ray in Manila, used under CC BY 2.0/modified from original, Pexels, “Asian Elephant”, used under CC0 license/modified from original

In the context of concerns about disease outbreaks by EEHV affecting Asian elephants, we must know the diversity within the world of elephants. There are three main species: the African Elephant, which includes the African bush elephant and the African forest elephant, and the Asian Elephant. Each species has its own unique characteristics and habitats. The African Elephant roams Africa’s vast savannas and dense forests, while the Asian Elephant is found in various Asian countries like India and Thailand.

Different elephant species have distinct needs, threats, and ecological roles, meaning conservation strategies must be tailored accordingly.

Balancing Conservation

Across the world, brave heroes are joining forces to protect and save elephants from the challenges they face. Governments, NGOs, and conservation organizations like BioDB are working together to stand strong against the threats endangering these majestic creatures. They are taking bold steps to protect the future of elephants, armed with knowledge, innovation, and steadfast determination. The following are their main conservation initiatives:

Human-elephant conflicts have increased as human populations rise and encroach on traditional elephant habitats. Focusing on community involvement, alternate means of support, and cutting-edge fencing techniques, mitigating these disputes, and promoting cohabitation have gained significance. Poaching adds a critical threat to elephant populations, primarily fueled by the illegal ivory trade. Governments and conservation organizations have intensified their anti-poaching efforts through increased law enforcement, intelligence-led operations, and awareness campaigns to curb the demand for ivory. Global initiatives, organizations, and campaigns have sprung up to combat poaching, protect their habitats, and raise public awareness. In recent years, elephant conservation efforts have gained momentum worldwide, driven by a growing awareness of these majestic creatures’ threats. The use of cutting-edge instruments like GPS monitoring collars, drones, and video traps to follow elephant movements and behaviors as well as locate poaching hotspots has been vital in supporting their efforts. Data-driven approaches have become more prevalent, empowering conservationists to develop effective strategies.

The rise of ethical and sustainable wildlife tourism has provided an additional avenue for conservation support. Today, many responsible travelers seek experiences that contribute to elephant conservation, uplift local communities, and not cruelty.

Photo credit to rawpixel.com, “An elephant with ivory tusks walking next to a baby elephant in the wild”, used under CC0 license

Climate change is impacting elephant habitats, migratory patterns, and food sources. Conservationists diligently study the potential effects of climate change on elephant populations and integrate climate resilience measures into their conservation plans. Moreover, international collaboration has become a pivotal aspect of elephant conservation, with neighboring countries forging alliances to safeguard migratory corridors and enhance regional conservation efforts. These cross-border initiatives address critical issues like poaching and habitat protection on a broader scale.

Balancing elephant conservation with socio-economic development is a delicate task. Conservation measures often require restrictions on land use and resource exploitation, potentially impacting local livelihoods. Additionally, there are cultural factors to consider, as elephants hold deep significance in many societies. Balancing traditional practices with conservation objectives requires sensitive approaches that respect and integrate local beliefs and knowledge. Striking a balance between preserving elephant habitats and supporting human development can be challenging. Can we strike the ultimate balance between never-ending human needs and the call of the wild? Let’s put on our thinking caps!

Answering Elephant’s Call

As we learn more about these wonderful beings, we discover their challenges, and the urgency to act becomes clearer. We realize that their story is not just a tale of wilderness but also resilience, coexistence, and shared responsibility. The fate of elephants is not written in stone; humanity’s collective will and efforts shape it. Governments, communities, and individuals all play vital roles in determining the outcome of this epic saga. Together, as guardians of the Earth, we can shape the future of elephants and their habitats.

Let us be the authors of change, crafting the world of coexistence where elephants roam wild and free. Join us in this conservation journey and help us create hope for future generations to witness and enjoy the presence of elephants in the wild. The Earth’s Guardians are awaiting our legacy – will you answer the call?

“The survival of elephants is a shared responsibility, transcending borders and cultures. Together, we can create a better world for them and us.” – Prince William, Duke of Cambridge

Assaf Levy
Assaf Levy is the Founder & CEO of BioDB.com - a group tasked with collecting conservation data, raising awareness for biodiversity loss and fundraising.