African elephants species:
Affected by: Illegal wildlife trade , Human wildlife conflict , Habitat loss and fragmentation
How lucky are we to share our planet with incredible giants like this? But huge numbers of these unique-looking, intelligent animals are being brutally killed to fuel the growing demand for their ivory.
Around 90% of African elephants have been wiped out in the past century – mainly due to the ivory trade. Elephant poaching, even though it’s illegal, has been getting dramatically worse in parts of Africa in the last 10 years – mostly because of growing demand for ivory in China and the Far East. Around 20,000 African elephants are being killed every year for their ivory.
We shouldn’t just protect elephants because they’re so iconic – they also play a vital role in their environment, for instance by shaping their habitat and spreading seeds.
By protecting elephants, we’re also helping support local communities, and making sure natural resources are available for generations to come. Let’s do all we can to protect them.
Where African elephants live
Elephants need a lot of land to find enough food and water. They can roam across more than 30,000 sq km. But the space available to elephants in Africa has more than halved since 1979.
They’re still doing well in some secure areas, where numbers are even increasing, but in other places they’ve been forced to live in smaller, isolated groups. Elephant numbers are getting dangerously low in parts of central Africa.
Why African elephants are so important
Elephants play an essential role in their environment. They're ‘landscape architects’ – for instance as they move around and feed, they create clearings in wooded areas, which lets new plants grow and forests regenerate naturally.
And then there’s seed dispersal. When elephants eat seed-bearing plants and fruits, the seeds often re-emerge undigested. It’s the way a lot of plants spread. And elephants can eat big seeds that small animals can’t.
Without elephants, the natural structure and functioning of their landscapes would be very different, which would have impacts on the other wildlife and the people who share that space.
Local people depend on natural resources found in elephant habitats, for example for food, fuel and income. As one of Africa’s wildlife ‘big five’, elephants are popular with tourists, which can be an important source of income for communities.
By helping protect elephants we’re also helping make sure their environment and its natural resources are available for generations to come.