African ElephantLoxodontaafricana Matt Shollenberger
Description • African elephants are the largest land animals on Earth. • They eat roots, grasses, fruit, and bark. An adult can consume 300 pounds of food a day. • They are poached for their valuable ivory. • Nearly 30% of tree species in African forests require elephants, and they control woody growth in grasslands. • They are a keystone species.
Where are they? • They live in forests and grasslands in the Congo Basin and Coastal East Africa. Approximate Range
Why are they endangered? • Elephants are killed for their valuable ivory. • Both male and female African elephants grow tusks. • Poaching of elephants is illegal but has not been completely eliminated. • In the 1980s, an estimated 100,000 elephants were killed each year. • Their natural habitat is also being encroached upon.
How many are left? • There are between 470,000 and 690,000 individuals left in the wild. • Countries in western Africa have much fewer elephants than countries in southern African. • If conservation is not improved, the species could be extinct within 50 years.
Why are they important? • Elephants are vital to the preservation of grasslands. Without them, the grasslands would turn into forests. Elephants eat the woody plants that would otherwise grow rampant and convert the grasslands into forests or shrublands. Shrubs sprout, and if left unchecked, can grow so dense that they kill the grasses. Elephants eat these plants, and though they eat the grasses also, the grasses can recover more easily. If the elephants are taken away, the grasslands of Africa are too.
What is being done? • Various organizations provide funding to protect the African elephants. These funds go towards: • Training and equipping anti-poaching squads • Establishing protected areas for the elephants • Conducting surveys of populations to better understand what actions to take • Helping local governments adopt policies that benefit elephants. • Managing elephant populations
What else can be done? • We need to: • Decrease the rate of habitat loss • Strengthen anti-poaching actions • Reduce the conflict betweens communities of humans and elephants • Help local authorities with their conservation and management programs • Conduct more extensive surveys to better understand the plight of the elephants
How successful have we been? • We have been partially successful: some populations of African elephants are in danger, but some are secure. • There may have been 3-5 million African elephants in the 1930s, but there are now less than 1 million. • Elephants’ range was 3 million square miles in 1979, but only 1 million in 2007. • African elephant populations are secure when they are protected; those that are not protected do not fare as well.
Citations • African Elephant. (n.d.). Retrieved January 29, 2014, from National Geographic website: http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/mammals/african-elephant/ • African elephants. (n.d.). Retrieved January 29, 2014, from World Wildlife Fund website: http://wwf.panda.org/what_we_do/endangered_species/elephants/african_elephants/ • Elephants as Keystone Species. (n.d.). Retrieved January 29, 2014, from Field Trip Earth website: http://www.fieldtripearth.org/article.xml?id=754 • Lewis, M. (n.d.). African Elephant. Retrieved January 29, 2014, from World Wildlife Fund website: http://worldwildlife.org/species/african-elephant