Personifying prehistoric beauty, theological relevance, and environmental importance, this August 12, we honor one of Earth’s most magnificent creatures with World Elephant Day. Over the last decade, the number of elephants has significantly dropped by 62% and they could be mostly extinct by the end of the next decade. It is estimated that, every day, 100 African elephants are killed by poachers. The desire for ivory in Asian markets has led to the slaughter of thousands of elephants. World Elephant Day was created to raise awareness and create change to save these majestic creatures. Since its founding in 2012 by Patricia Sims and the Elephant Reintroduction Foundation of Thailand along with over 100 elephant conservation organizations worldwide, World Elephant Day has reached millions of individuals who love elephants and want to do whatever they can to help. World Elephant Day is a day where organizations and individuals can rally together to give a voice to the issues threatening elephants. This powerful, collective global movement offers a way to establish and endorse conservation solutions to make the world a safer place for elephants and their habitats so future generations can appreciate them.
History of World Elephant Day
Elephants and humans have come a long way together throughout the history of civilization. Thanks to the sheer expanse of the African elephant’s natural environment as well as its size and threatening posture, it has largely managed to resist captivity and domestication. The Asian elephant, on the other hand, which has lived alongside humans for over 4,000 years, enjoys great respect and is associated with a variety of cultural and spiritual customs. In Thailand, for example, the elephants are a national icon with a national holiday dedicated entirely to them and they can even receive a royal title from the king.
Despite all of the above, there is still a lot we don’t know about elephants. They have the biggest brain of any land animal, which makes them clever, conscious, social, and empathetic — qualities we humans strive for in ourselves. Humans and elephants share many characteristics and they are possibly more like us than any other animal. But we are putting their future in jeopardy and threatening their essential biodiverse habitats throughout Asia and Africa.
Elephants are a keystone species for their environments since they promote healthy ecosystems and encourage biodiversity. As the World Elephant Day website says, “To lose the elephant is to lose an environmental caretaker and an animal from which we have much to learn.”
We can save elephants by enforcing stronger local- and international protection policies and legislation for wild elephants against poaching and the illegal trade of ivory, promoting better management of their natural habitats, educating people on the vital role of the elephant in ecosystems, improving the way elephants in captivity are treated, and, if necessary, reintroducing captive elephants into wildlife reserves to allow a natural replenishing of endangered populations. These are just some of the aims of various elephant conservation organizations around the world.
Elephants are running out of space and time. We have to work together to prevent senseless poaching and the trafficking of ivory, and establish protected natural sanctuaries in which elephants and other wildlife can thrive — before it’s too late and they’re all gone.
World Elephant Day timeline
The Greek general Pyrrhus attempts to restore Alexander the Great’s empire by invading southern Italy with an army that includes 20 armed and armored elephants.
Famous Carthaginian general Hannibal leads a cavalry of 37 elephants across the Alps — Surus, the only elephant to survive, becomes his mount for 15 years.
A Jewish trader named Isaac is sent by Charlamagne to procure an elephant who would later be immortalized in many of the “Arabian Nights” stories.
Jumbo, circus owner P.T. Barnum’s famed elephant that he purchased in France, is struck and killed in a rail-yard accident — Barnum continued making handsome profits off exhibiting the elephant’s skeleton.
The Edison Manufacturing Company films the public electrocution of an elephant named Topsy conducted by General Electric.
An elephant by the name of Mary who crushed her ill-equipped assistant trainer after poking her in an infection is hung by the neck for murder.
World Elephant Day FAQs
How many Elephants are left in the wild?
Only about 40,000 to 50,000 elephants are left in the wild, the rest are in captivity.
How long do elephants live?
Most elephants can live to about 60 years old.
What’s killing the elephants?
According to veterinarians and wildlife experts interviewed by National Geographic, as well as an examination of past elephant die-offs, possible causes include the ingestion of toxic bacteria in water, anthrax poisoning, poisoning by humans, viral infection from rodents, or a pathogenic microbe.
How to Observe World Elephant Day
Donate to the World Elephant Society or the Elephant Reintroduction Foundation, which focuses on restoring natural habitats, changing legislation, and the rehabilitation of these animals.
Inform other people about what is happening to elephants, get your friends to sign a pledge, or share your love and concern for elephants with a hashtag #WorldElephantDay
Learn about what others are doing to conserve and protect elephants. Support efforts to treat and care for these magnificent creatures in non-exploitive and sustainable environments where they can thrive. And join World Elephant Day’s list of elephant supporters.
5 FUN FACTS ABOUT ELEPHANTS
Their tusks are teeth
Elephant tusks are actually enlarged incisor teeth that first appear when elephants are around two years old.
They eat a Lot
Elephants need up to 150 kg of food per day — that equals about 150 bags of chips!
The Asian elephant is an endangered species with less than 40,000 remaining worldwide.
The African elephant is threatened with less than 400,000 remaining worldwide.
There were over 100,000 elephants in Thailand at the beginning of the last century — today, there are less than 4,000.
Why World Elephant Day is Important
We love elephants
Humans haven’t been very kind to elephants throughout history, despite all they’ve done for us. They are intelligent, loving, and mysterious creatures that should be preserved.
They’re crucial to the environment
Elephants are a keystone species, which means they create and maintain the ecosystems in which they live and make it possible for a myriad of plant and animal species to live in those environments as well. The loss of elephants gravely affects many species that depend on elephant-maintained ecosystems and causes major habitat chaos and a weakening to the structure and diversity of nature itself.
We don’t know much about them
Elephants have the largest brains of any living mammal on Earth. We still have a lot to learn from them and we can’t do that if they are all extinct.
World Elephant Day dates