Savannah Elephant

Savannah Elephant S avannah Elephant Photo A frican savannah elephants communicate across great distances at low frequencies that cannot be heard by humans. J ulie Larsen Maher ©WCS Share on facebook Share on twitter Share on email More Sharing Services The African savannah elephant is the largest land mammal in the world. A mature bull elephant may stand up to 13 feet tall at the shoulder and weigh 14,000 pounds. The most noticeable distinction between African savannah and forest elephants is size: The savannah is larger and has bigger and more curved tusks. Asian elephants have much smaller ears than both African species and usually, only the male Asian elephant sports tusks. African savannah elephants have large home ranges, spanning hundreds of square miles. As they move, they push over trees to get to their branches and roots, helping maintain the grasslands, and they use their tusks and trunks to dig for water, creating pools that many other animals need to survive. These elephants are important dispersers of seeds through their consumption of fruit. In folklore, elephants are known for not forgetting. For the African savannah elephant, memory is a tool for surviving challenges that may come intermittently over decades. Long-term memory tends to be vested in



Transcript of Savannah Elephant

Savannah ElephantSavannah Elephant PhotoAfrican savannah elephants communicate across great distances at low frequencies that cannot be heard by humans.Julie Larsen Maher WCS Share on facebook Share on twitter Share on email More Sharing ServicesThe African savannah elephant is the largest land mammal in the world. A mature bull elephant may stand up to 13 feet tall at the shoulder and weigh 14,000 pounds. The most noticeable distinction between African savannah andforest elephantsis size: The savannah is larger and has bigger and more curved tusks.Asian elephantshave much smaller ears than both African species and usually, only the male Asian elephant sports tusks.African savannah elephants have large home ranges, spanning hundreds of square miles. As they move, they push over trees to get to their branches and roots, helping maintain the grasslands, and they use their tusks and trunks to dig for water, creating pools that many other animals need to survive. These elephants are important dispersers of seeds through their consumption of fruit.In folklore, elephants are known for not forgetting. For the African savannah elephant, memory is a tool for surviving challenges that may come intermittently over decades. Long-term memory tends to be vested in the older females, called matriarchs, without which the herd could die of starvation or dehydration. During the drought of 1993 inTanzania, elephant matriarchs that remembered a similar drought 35 years before led their herds beyond the borders ofTarangire National Parkin search of food and water. Groups with matriarchs that were not old enough to remember the previous drought suffered a 63 percent mortality of their calves that year. Unfortunately, these large females are the most attractive targets for ivory poachers. The animals tend to have the largest tusks, and they may be easier to find than the males.Fast FactsScientific NameLoxodonta africana

Elephants have complex social behavior. When a member of the herd dies, they cover the body with grass and dirt and stay near the site for several hours.

African savannah elephants communicate across great distances at low frequencies that cannot be heard by humans. An elephant herd consists of related females and their young and is managed by the eldest female.Adult male elephants rarely join a herd and lead a solitary life, only approaching herds during mating season. African savannah elephants may live up to 70 years in the wild, longer than any other mammals except humans. An elephants trunk has more than 40,000 muscles and tendons.The trunk can lift large objects, yet its sensitive tip can manipulate very small things.

ChallengesHabitat loss and poaching are the biggest concerns for the survival of elephants. As the human footprint has grown in Africa, elephant habitats have been converted to farmland, deforested by industrial logging and mining, and otherwise developed by roads and settlements. Poachers kill elephants for their ivory and meat, and farmers sometimes kill them to protect their crops, which elephants often raid. The IUCN lists African savannah elephant populations as Vulnerable.WCS RespondsWCS works throughout much of the elephant's remaining habitat to monitor and manage populations and find novel approaches to reduce human-elephant conflict. One way to decrease elephant raids on human crops is to help farmers devise methods of keeping elephants away. Such examples include using chili pepper smoke or chili pepper spray blasted from guns, which serves as a noxious airborne deterrent. WCS supports the Elephant Pepper Development Trust, a program that sells hot sauce grown from alternative pepper crops to aid local farmers and elephant protection efforts.

WCS has been supporting elephant studies in TanzaniasTarangire National Parkone of the best parks in Africa to see large herds of calm elephants. Our main goals there are to protect migration routes and dispersal areas beyond the park's relatively safe boundaries and to work with local Maasai and tourism operators to accomplish this.

Working with local governments to curtail poaching, WCS undertook a fundraising effort to support game wardens inVirunga National Parkin theDemocratic Republic of Congo. The wardens suffered attacks by armed militias who were poaching elephants in the park. WCS also sounded the alarm when poachers with automatic rifles killed 2,000 savannah elephants in Chads Zakouma National Park. WCS subsequently established a fund to help save the parks surviving elephants, numbering fewer than 1,000. A WCS pilot and light aircraft that are based in Zakouma continually provide information to Chads park service about poaching activities and elephant herd locations.From the NewsroomBanning Ivory Sales in AmericaFebruary 18, 2014As the second-largest market for ivory in the world, the United States recently announced that it will ban the trade within its borders through a series of new rules. The editorial board of theNew York Timesexplores the implications.The Bloody Ivory BusinessFebruary 8, 2014Following recent ivory crushes by the governments of France, China, and the U.S., the editorial board of theNew York Timesevaluates an initiative by New York State legislators to prohibitall ivory sales in the state, including those that are now technically legal.How We Can End the Elephant Poaching CrisisAugust 20, 2013In a blog post following her recent trip to Tanzanias Tarangire National Park, where she observed elephants and met with WCS staff, Chelsea Clinton writes on the urgency of ending the poaching crisis.In the Fight Against Elephant Poaching, the U.S. Can LeadJuly 29, 2013WCSs John Calvelli, Exec. Vice President for Public Affairs, describes the momentum building to save elephants as U.S. lawmakers begin to understand how the poaching crisis is impacting not just wildlife, but security, diplomacy, development, and conservation as well.Collars Protect Elephants in South SudanJuly 1, 2013WCS conservationists, together with officials from South Sudans Ministry of Wildlife Conservation and Tourism, have ramped up efforts to protect the countrys last elephants by fitting individual animals with GPS collars for remote tracking.MoreThe largest land mammal on earth, the African elephant weighs up to eight tons. The elephant is distinguished by its massive body, large ears and a long trunk, which has many uses ranging from using it as a hand to pick up objects, as a horn to trumpet warnings, an arm raised in greeting to a hose for drinking water or bathing.Asian elephants differ in several ways from their African relatives. They are much smaller in size and their ears are straight at the bottom, unlike the large fan-shape ears of the African species. Only some Asian male elephants have tusks. All African elephants, including females, have tusks. Elephants are either left or right-tusked and the one they use more is usually smaller because of wear and tear.The Asian elephant has four toes on the hind foot and five on the forefoot, while the African elephant has three on the hind foot and five on the forefoot.Led by a matriarch, elephants are organized into complex social structures of females and calves, while male elephants tend to live in isolation. A single calf is born to a female once every 4-5 years and after a gestation period of 22 monthsthe longest of any mammal. These calves stay with their mothers for years and are also cared for by other females in the group.The two species of elephantsAfrican and Asianneed extensive land to survive. Roaming in herds and consuming hundreds of pounds of plant matter in a single day, both species of elephant require extensive amounts of food, water and space. As a result, these large mammals place great demands on the environment and often come into conflict with people in competition for resources.About the African elephantThe African elephant is the worlds biggest land animal. There are two subspecies the larger savannah elephant, which roams grassy plains and woodlands, and the smaller forest elephant, which lives in theforestsof central Africa.Female African elephants are very social animals. They live in strongly bonded groups called herds with their relatives. Males usually live alone but sometimes form small groups with other males. Elephants need a lot of space to find food and water they can roam areas bigger than 30,000 sq km.The African elephants range has declined by over 50% since 1979 and their populations are becoming more fragmented. While some are secure and expanding, other populations are in decline particularly in central Africa.With only 600,000 elephants in the wild and threats from poaching, habitat loss and conflict with people this intelligent and powerful animal is officially classed as vulnerable.Find out how you canhelp protect african elephantsWhy elephants matter

Elephants play a crucial role in their ecosystem. They are the architects of their landscape opening up woodlands as they feed and roam. For example, in forests elephants create clearings which allow new plants to grow and naturally regenerate the forest.

They also play a vital role in seed dispersal, especially for large seeds that are not spread by smaller animals. Without elephants these larger seeds would either be dispersed over shorter distances, dispersed less often, or not dispersed at all. This would affect the natural structure and functioning of the forest ecosystem which is important to people and other animals.

Local people also depend on the natural resources within elephant habitat for food, fuel and income. As one of Africas big five, elephants are a popular sight for tourists. This brings benefits to local people ecotourism can be an important source of income for them.

By helping protect elephants, were helping conserve their habitat, supporting local communities, and making sure natural resources are available for generations to come.Threats to elephants

Illegal wildlife tradeAfrican elephants are vulnerable to poaching for the illegal trade in their ivory and meat. Their ivory tusks are the most sought after, but their meat and skin are also traded. Tens of thousands of elephants are killed every year for their tusks. Ivory is often carved into ornaments and jewellery China is the biggest consumer market for such products.

Human expansionAs the human population expands, more land is being converted to agriculture. So elephant habitat is shrinking and becoming more fragmented. This means elephants and people come into contact more often, and conflicts occur. Elephants sometimes raid farmers fields and damage their crops affecting the farmers livelihoods and may even kill people. Elephants are sometimes killed in retaliation.How WWF is helping protect African elephants

African elephant programmeOur African elephant programme aims to create stability for elephant populations and their habitats in 20 landscapes by 2017. To achieve this, were focusing on tackling all threats to this species poaching, habitat loss and conflicts between people and elephants.

Tackling illegal wildlife tradeWere helping reduce poaching by improving protection and management of their habitat, including helping to train and equip law enforcement and anti-poaching teams. We work alongside TRAFFIC (the wildlife trade monitoring network) to investigate, expose and crack down on the illegal trade in ivory and to reduce the demand, so this trade will no longer be a significant threat to elephant conservation.

Creating new protected areasWere also helping create new protected areas and setting up wildlife corridors that link fragmented habitats. It means elephants have more space to roam without coming into villages, and different populations can mix and breed.END ILLEGAL WILDLIFE TRADEHelp Stop the Slaughter of Elephants

The killing may be taking place on another continent, but by supplying these poachers with a market to sell their blood ivory the U.S. is helping to pull the fatal trigger.President Obama has made all the right moves, but until his good intentions are translated into action the tragic loss of the worlds largest land mammal will continue unchecked.Help us stop this horrific slaughter, and tell President Obama to crack down on the illegal trade and sale of ivory within the United States!THE ELEPHANT DEBATEBy Daphne Sheldrick D.B.E.: 1992 UNEP Global 500 Laureate.IntroductionNo animal triggers more heated debate within conservation circles than the elephant, for no animal has greater impact on the environment or is more "human" emotionally. Elephants can change the face of the landscape enacting their allotted "recycling" role and they share with us humans many emotional traits. Theirs is a parallel lifespan, the same rate of development, a sense of family and death, loyalties and friendships forged over the years that span a lifetime and a memory that probably far surpasses our own. They also have additional attributes such as "instinct", that mysterious genetic knowledge crucial to survival; the ability to communicate over distance with low frequency infra-sound hidden to human ears, and, like many other animals, powers of telepathy. Hence, the question of how best to "manage" these highly sophisticated and sensitive pachyderms inevitably evokes heated debate.Elephants and Ivory:-Unhappily, the ivory of their huge "incisors" has commercial and mystical significance, particularly in the Far East. In Japan, it is used for signature seals known as "hankas" and in many other Far Eastern countries such as China the ancient art of carving is an important industry with skills handed down over generations from father to son. It is the demand in the East for an ivory hanka, or in the West for an ivory trinket, that has injected the commercial element into ivory and it is the commercial trade that now threatens the survival of the largest land mammal on earth. All who buy ivory have blood on their hands, for it has cost an elephant its life and that of all its dependent young. It has also wrought immeasurable psychological suffering to many others who were friends and loved ones.Elephants need S P A C E and space is a commodity that is fast becoming scarce due to human expansion. Ancient migration routes have been cut and elephants driven into their last refuges, often too small to be viable in the long-term, or positioned in marginal land where survival hinges on the variables of rainfall.Meanwhile, conflicting messages from the elephant range States and different conservation factions has bred confusion in the minds of the lay public and since it is "people power" that will ultimately determine the course of events, it is important that the complexities of the elephant story are fully understood. Thirty years ago the elephant population of Africa stood at a healthy 3 million. Today less than 250,000 remain with numbers poised to decline further due to human pressures. Remnant elephant communities isolated from one another and holed up in small refuge areas immediately become "problem animals" every time they put a foot out, since they find themselves in conflict with human interests. The price of this is a bullet.Elephant society is comprised of bonded female units which stay together for life (young bulls leave the natal family at puberty to apprentice themselves to high ranking bulls in order to learn the codes of behaviour that govern bull society). The female unit is led by the oldest member of the family, known as the Matriarch, and it is she who makes all the decisions for her family. Hence, within the cow units, the misfortunes of one, affect, all, making them particularly vulnerable. Elephant infants cannot survive without milk for the first two years of life. Thereafter, ideally, a calf would supplement its diet of vegetation with some milk from its mother for the next three years until the arrival of the next baby, by which time it will be 5 years old. It will reach puberty between the age of l0 and l5 years; be a young adult at 20, in its prime in its thirties and forties, still strong and healthy yet ageing in its fifties, and old beyond the age of sixty. Therefore, when a calf is orphaned younger than two, it is usually doomed, for whilst the family will love and care for it as best they can, few cow elephants with a calf at foot will have the lactating capacity to suckle two; nor would a cow jeopardise her own calf by doing so. Occasionally, if times are good, an old cow wise in the ways of motherhood will allow an orphan to suckle if she has lost a baby, or has one not wholly milk dependent, but such instances are rare. Deprived of milk, an orphaned infant will weaken rapidly, fall behind the herd and then the Matriarch must abandon it in the interests of the others whose survival is her responsibility. Her decision is final.The gestation period for an elephant is between 22 and 24 months. A young cow can fall pregnant for the first time at puberty, so given optimum conditions a female elephant could have her first calf at the age of l2 or 14, thereafter producing one baby every five years into her sixties. However, conditions are seldom optimal for elephants these days. Most populations are under stress which inhibits conception; many are subjected to intense human intrusion through mass tourism and scientific monitoring; droughts are commonplace in marginal areas with both water and food scarce and, of course, in Southern Africa economics dominate, in a flawed "if it pays it stays" attitude, so periodic culls are accepted as necessary management practice. There the meat of culled elephants is canned as pet food, their hide turned into leather, fetching high prices in Japan, their feet sold as curios and their young sold to Zoos and Circuses under the "educational" loophole in the laws governing endangered species. What can be educational in viewing a miserable and usually psychotic captive is questionable, to say the least, particularly in this day and age of sophisticated technology.The scale of abuse attached to the live baby elephant trade was graphically highlighted by what became known as the Tuli Debacle. Calves, some of which were only two years old, were snatched from their living families by Helicopter in the Tuli Block of Botswana and subsequently cruelly brutalised in a South African so called "training" facility in preparation for sale to China and the Far East. There they became the subject of a cruelty Court Case which ended up generating such international outrage that some, at least, were released into Marakele National Park where they subsequently became absorbed into a wild herd. However, others less fortunate were spirited away to Northern Transvaal , (no doubt to be "trained" further far from the public spotlight) and yet others were clandestinely airlifted to Zoos in Switzerland and Germany, there to face life imprisonment in conditions that are far from suitable for an elephant. (Pressure is being exerted to try and get these wild caught captives returned back to where they belong). Another report from Tanzania told of young elephants being isolated from the herd and chased by Landrovers until exhausted, then being netted and dragged hundreds of metres to a waiting transporter. (Needless to say, none of these captives survived). It is known that the live animal trade also acts as a convenient cover and conduit for illegal narcotics and diamonds.The demand for young elephants in China is ongoing, because mortality is high in a country where animal welfare is an alien concept and captive elephants are subjected to untold cruelty and suffering. CITES (The International Convention on Trade in Endangered Species) has always conveniently overlooked what is, and is not, "a suitable destination" in terms of elephants since few of the delegates are conversant with the needs, and nature, of elephants. The trade is lucrative, the demand is there, and money talks!Poaching and CITES:-In the 1970's and 80's poaching escalated to such an extent that public outcry forced the International Community to take action. North of the Zambezi, entire populations of elephants faced annihilation; security within the Parks impacted negatively on tourism, (the mainstay of many African economies), and the situation was desperate. Finally, in1989,CITES, which meets every two years to discuss trade in threatened and endangered species, was forced to impose an International Ban on the sale of all ivory. Elephants were placed on thefully protected Appendix I listing,the price of ivory fell sharply and with it the incentive to poach. In short, the elephants won a reprieve just in time throughout most of Africa and some countries such as Kenya and Zambia went so far as to burn their ivory stocks in a gesture of commitment and goodwill.However, others further South and some further North in possession of illegal stockpiles, chose to hoard it, and immediately began to orchestrate a cunning P.R. campaign to be allowed to sell it, despite the fact that a further l0,000 elephants were estimated to have perished when Hong Kong was allowed to sell its stockpile immediately after the ban was imposed. This should have been a warning heeded but commercial interests often cloud good judgement.The International Ivory Ban held for the next 8 years and for the first time ever poaching was brought under control. Furthermore, the in-house corruption that had crept into most wildlife authorities could be addressed. Yet, eight years is time enough only for just two generations of elephants to be born to replace the holocaust of the previous two decades and certainly not time enough to heal the fragile fabric of elephant society which had been severely disrupted. Still the pressure mounted from the Southern Africans with talk of "over population", "rampaging elephants" spilling out of protected areas to conflict with human interests, and the perennial cry that the dead must pay for the living. In this respect a quote from Dr. Richard Leakey sums up the opinion of informed conservationists:-"Biodiversity cannot be given a price The point is that species must stay, so we must pay. National Parks are not larders to be plundered and exploited."One can be excused for thinking that perhaps we humans should begin by addressing the negative impact our species has had on the planet through cultivation, open-cast mining, industrial pollution, river contamination, forest felling and other facets of mismanagement! The damage done to the planet by homo sapiens exceeds that of all others.In June l997,another CITES Convention was convened inHarare, Zimbabwe,and amidst a great deal of political manoeuvring, the Ivory Ban that had held for the past eight years was overturned, and overturned in an unethical way through a second secret ballot. This over-rode the first vote in favour of the elephants, because the European Union chose to abstain, which cost the elephants dearly. In so doing, Zimbabwe, Namibia and Botswana finally won the right for a one-off sale of their ivory stockpiles to Japan. Shamefully, this time, Animal Welfare Organisations there to speak for the animals and provide some semblance of "conscience" within a trade oriented forum, were denied even a voice, despite the fact that it is they who are best equipped to furnish the usually ill informed delegates with first hand information on conservation issues. Even the report of the scientific "Panel of Experts" which questioned the poaching figures submitted by Zimbabwe, fell on deaf ears. In a nutshell, the l997 CITES Conference of the Parties will go down in history as a disgraceful showing of acrimony, strong arm tactics, and deviousness, besides being a mega conservation blunder. Nevertheless,the South African population of elephants remained on Appendix Iand that, at least, was some consolation.Immediately, the message was out - elephants were up for grabs again. Illegal ivory could again be "laundered" into the legal system; poaching escalated, as did the stockpiling of illegal ivory, and this at a time when the elephant populations had barely recovered from the previous onslaught. Furthermore, many African range States were in a worsening state of political chaos with no hope of adequate law enforcement; automatic weapons were easily procurable and many wildlife authorities were impoverished and riddled with corruption. More sinister still, there were those that embarked on a deliberate strategy of covering up poaching incidents either to disguise their own shortcomings or because they had vested interests in the illegal trade.In April 2000,The CITES Conference of the Parties met yet again, this time inNairobi, Kenya,amidst conflicting and confused reports about whether, in fact, poaching for ivory was responsible for the further demise of elephants, or whether, in fact, there had been a reduction in numbers. The CITES Secretariat was quite openly biased in favour of the Southern African pro-trade lobby and Kenya and India found themselves alone in admitting a serious escalation in poaching and pressing for the fully protected Appendix I listing to be reinstated. Other range States, known to have been under poaching pressure, saw fit to again conceal the facts for the same reasons as before; yet others were either "bought" or intimidated and in the end a compromise emerged a two year moratorium on the sale ofallivory in exchange for thedownlisting to Appendix II of the South African population,thereby sanctioning the trade in all elephant by-products, except ivory, butincluding live elephants.Yet again, the thorny question of what is, and what is not, asuitabledestination failed to be adequately defined. Worse still, within just a month or two, Zimbabwe deliberately flouted the Convention's ruling and went ahead with the sale of a large quantity of ivory to China! Nor is there any doubt that in two years' time, the pressure to open the Ivory Trade will be even greater, so the The Millennium Cites gathering will go down in history as being a no-win situation yet again for the elephants. It would seem that only when the Southern African populations are threatened with extinction will the International Community respond by placing all ivory off limits forever, since wealthy Southern Africa has more to offer the world in terms of trade than other African range States.Culling as a Management Option:-The only practical way of "culling" elephant herds is to gun down entire family groups, first having immobilised the Matriarch from a helicopter so that the family cluster around her, confused and rudderless. The drug commonly used is scholine, banned for use on humans, since it collapses the muscles causing total paralysis, yet leaves the victim fully conscious. An anaesthetic would, of course, be far more humane, but it would contaminate the meat and detract from its commercial value. Yet, no-one can deny that an elephant cull is anything short of a brutal massacre that sickens even the most seasoned men detailed to undertake this terrible task as part of their conservation duties.Significant, however, is the fact that artificial culling is undoubtedly seriously flawed. With all age groups within the female herds still intact, and pressure off the land by the removal of some, the breeding rate inevitably rises. Culling therefore has to be ongoing and the problem of "too many elephants" is never truly solved, serving, of course, the interests of the commercial trade. But, culling as practised in Southern Africa is fundamentally flawed for another very important reason, expediently overlooked. It deprives Nature of evolution's most potent genetic tool -Natural Selection- something that can never be duplicated by man. The survival of the fittest ensures the strength of the genetic core of wild populations so that only the best genes perpetuate. Natural Selection is the powerhouse of evolution, crucial to healthy stock, and vital for adaptation in an ever changing habitat, for Nature isneverstatic; it is a dynamic and volatile force with evolution constantly at work. The term "Conservation" has been defined thus by one of the world's most eminent ecologists, the late Sir Frank Fraser Darling:-"Maintenance of the Energy flux is conservation reduction of it is the opposite to conservation".No-one can argue that the removal of large numbers of elephant from the environment for commercial purposes, is anything other than a reduction of the energy flux and as such contrary to the fundamentals of conservation. Neither should the contribution of the dead to the wellbeing of the living be overlooked. A dead elephant feeds a great many predators for a long time, and the recycling of its remains back into the environment returns nutrients to the soil from whence they sprung, contributing to fertility. Even the tail hairs of a dead elephant serve a useful function, plucked out by the birds for nests; bones are chewed and scattered by predators, gnawed by rodents or weathered back into the soil by the elements. A study done in Tsavo recorded 84,700 insects in just 3 kilos of elephant dung, so ponder for a moment the forces at work to recycle what once was a living elephant. When nothing is removed from the habitat, nothing is lost, and the environment is the richer for it.The Tsavo Example:-The thorny issue of what to do about an over population of elephants in a confined area continues to simmer. Attempts at birth control through pill implants have proved problematical and are still in the experimental stage. Who, in fact, is qualified to determine how many is too many, when there are too many, and which ones should die? Only Nature can do this, and the example is there within Kenya's Tsavo National Park, the only Park in Africa where natural processes and vegetational progression has been allowed to proceed to a natural conclusion devoid of human intervention. In Tsavo elephant/vegetational cyclical patterns have been carefully monitored over time and a natural elephant die-off that took place in the early seventies has been scientifically documented. There man stood aside to look and learn rather than to crash in clumsily where angels feared to tread.The argument most commonly used to justify the large-scale killing of elephant herds is that they destroy the habitat, threatening the survival of other life forms. But, where is the evidence to support this premise? In Tsavo what at one point in time appeared to be wholesale "destruction" of the woody plant community, turned out to be something quite different. Nor did the predicted demise of many species due to the activity of elephants occur - rather the reverse; the habitat was improved and became more productive benefiting biodiversity. There the ability of Nature to adjust elephant numbers was illustrated and the reason for the female bonding within elephant society also became clear. Added to this, human failings such as corruption and greed illustrated the pitfalls of "commercial utilisation" of wild free ranging populations, where Nature imposes its own controls through predation, disease, and food and water availability, no provision allowed in the system for human predation on a commercial scale.It so happened that Naturalists, as opposed to Scientists, were at the wildlife helm at that point in time. They viewed things not in isolation, but as a whole, since Naturalists do not specialise but consider the big picture. Sympathetic handling of wild populations and compassion for the orphaned and injured is not seen as a weakness but rather an essential element of sensitive conservation husbandry. A Naturalist has the advantage of vision unblinkered by scientific constraints and an intrinsic passion for wild unspoilt places where Nature and natural processes rule supreme, and where wild animals enjoya quality of lifeuntroubled by intrusive management. Naturalists understand that Nature holds the answers to many puzzles and that humans should take the time to look and learn rather than blunder in where angels fear to tread. Nature is complex and every living organism, whether large or small, is intertwined contributing, each in its own way, to the wellbeing of the whole. It has the ability to best correct imbalances caused by artificial boundaries with species adapting to change, and finding their own optimum levels within habitat conditions prevailing at the time. What can exist naturally within artificial boundaries will, and what can't, wont, such limitations being preferable to artificially manipulated situations that impact negatively both on quality of life and the sense of wilderness, quite apart from usually being too costly for Third World resources. Above all, Naturalists bow to the significance of natural selection, viewing it as a vital and necessary process that contributes to the wellbeing of the species. After all, no one knows better than Nature as to who should live and who should die.when the time comes. In other words, when it comes to intrusive management, less is always best.Tsavo National Park is 8,000 sq. miles in extent. It was established in l948, not because of its wealth of wildlife, but simply because it was a large chunk of country not suitable for either pastoral or agricultural purposes - an inhospitable arid thirstland with an average annual rainfall of between just l0 and and 20 inches; its barren wastes tsetse infested "commiphora" scrub served by only two permanent rivers; the malarial parasite and tsetse borne trypanosomiasis a deterrent to both humans and domestic livestock. Grasses were sparse or absent altogether beneath the dense entanglement of barbed scrub and sanseveria that dominated at that time, and as a result water runoff during the wet seasons produced flash flooding in sand luggas that lay dry for the rest of the year. Then, the habitat favoured the browsing species such as elephant, and black rhino, both of which were present in very large numbers, as were dikdik, lesser kudu and gerenuk. Grazers were few and sparse, but diverse nevertheless. However, the viewing of anything was severely restricted due to the impenetrable wall of bush that gave way reluctantly to every trail.By fortunate geographical accident, however, the Park just happened to hold a greater variety of different species than any other Park in the world, for there the northern and southern forms of fauna just happened to meet, doubling up on common species. It harboured Peters Gazelle as well as the Common Grant, the Somali ostrich along with the Masai, reticulated forms of giraffe merging into obvious Masai patterning, and, prior to the great rinderpest epidemic of the late l800's which decimated the ungulates, Greater kudu as well as the more common lesser variety and even Sable.In l948 when the Park first came into being, human pressure had yet to manifest itself along the boundaries, so elephants roamed an ecosystem of l6,000 square miles, twice the size of the Park itself. By the late l960's, however, human expansion and good Park protection brought most of the 45,000 elephants of the ecosystem within the Park's borders, and their impact on the environment became glaringly evident. Damage to the woodland scrub trees at a glance did appear catastrophic, but as the picture unfolded, it became clear that what was first seen as "destruction" was, in fact, no more than a rather untidy phase of a perfectly natural cycle in which scrubland was being recycled to make way for a grassland regime which would benefit the grazers hitherto suppressed. Only the elephant can trigger such change.Inevitably, there was talk of "culling", but ivory related corruption endemic within the higher echelons of Government called for caution. Furthermore, it had taken the Park authorities the previous two decades to control the illegal poaching of elephants within the Park boundaries by a traditional elephant hunting tribe known as the Waliangulu who would surely have difficulty rationalising why the authorities had the right to slaughter elephants when they had been prevented from doing so. Equally as important was the fact that Kenya was a leader in the psychological aspect of wild animals, and particularly of elephants, so the humane angle was a major consideration. That elephants are essentially "human" in emotion was already known as early as the fifties, (and has recently been scientifically proved through a study of the components of both human and elephant breast milk, both of which contain complex olichosacharides that promote complex brain formation). Like us, elephants "bury" their dead, covering a body with sticks and leaves; they grieve and mourn a lost loved one as deeply as any human, returning to the remains to pay their respects periodically, and for years afterwards. Like us, elephants remember - in fact, they never forget, so they are constantly in touch with friends and loved ones throughout their life.As humans, we understand the trauma of death, and most of us are familiar with grief. So, consider the grief wrought amongst elephants subjected to an annual "cull"; the trauma of forever being stalked by the threat of death, of annually mourning friends and family and never knowing who is next. It is unacceptable to believe that only humans are worthy of compassion or that the world exists simply for the benefit of mankind. We need a more holistic approach to Nature and the other creatures that have evolved in tandem with us on this planet, all of which fulfil a specific function within the environment.Of course, The Wardens of the time had the benefit of the South African example as well. They knew that with commercial culling inevitably come Tanning and Meat Processing plants employing a work force that cannot easily be dismissed; contracts and deadlines that have to be met and policy decisions influenced by economics rather than environmental considerations, not to mention the danger posed to visitors by traumatised and wounded animals too fearful to stand for a photograph. Then there is the perennial problem of corruption and greed creeping into the equation with disastrous results.Fortunately, however, in Tsavo, the controversial "Elephant Debate" was overtaken by events in l970 when a worse than usual drought hit the Park and Nature stepped in to sort things out ahead of man. Subjected to stress due to the shortage of food, natural adjustment of the birth rate began to inhibit recruitment. The cows simply did not conceive. Furthermore, the oldest females of the cow units, the Matriarchs, were the first to feel the affects of malnutrition and as strength ebbed, they took the female family within easy reach of permanent water. There conditions during drought conditions are inevitably harsher, affecting all members of the female herd. Then came the quiet mass die-off of selected female age groups throughout the entire population - a one-off event that saw the loss of almost 9,000 mainly female elephants of specific age groups. This created the generation gaps necessary to relieve the pressure on the land, immediately plunging the elephant population into a long slow decline which relieved the pressure on the land and made way for the regeneration of a new generation of trees. These had, of course, been planted by the elephants themselves in their long range wanderings, deposited far and wide in their dung. The reason that Nature has ordained that female elephants stay bonded together for life now becomes obvious, for in order to put a population into decline, it is the breeding females that must be targeted.It was all over within three months, at no cost, and with no disruption to other wild communities - no profiteering - just a cataclysmic natural tragedy soon obscured by the mists of time. Only the ivory was removed from the carcasses. In a perfect world this too should have remained where it was, to be recycled back from whence it came. The removal of females from the Tsavo population set the stage for the elephants to achieve a natural equilibrium with the food resource now available to them, bearing in mind that the population had been swelled by unnatural immigration induced by human expansion.This now poses a question. Surely, in this day and age of sophistication, it must be possible to repeat a natural die-off artificially, using anaesthesia rather than scholine and to remove a selected number of females of selected age groups, as did Nature? A natural die off has to take place, at the most, only once in an elephant's lifetime and this surely must be more humane than an annual cull. Could mankind not sacrifice the meat once in an elephant's lifetime in the interests of good conservation, particularly as there is an over-abundance of domestic livestock badly in need of a cull for environmental reasons. These are the issues that Science should be addressing and especially now that the lay public are better informed about the nature of elephants. Inhumane handling of elephants, and indeed all animals, is becoming anathema.Elephants are essentially fragile; huge eating machines that require not only a great quantity of vegetation in a day, but also a wide selection of different plants including the bark of trees to provide the trace elements and minerals essential for such a large frame. They are delicate in infancy and by design have been equipped with a surprisingly inefficient digestive system, passing 6% protein in their dung. Once denied the essentials in their diet, they weaken rapidly, which forces them to retreat to sources of permanent water where conditions are inevitably worse. Before all others, they are the first to feel the affects of malnutrition, inducing a condition known asketosis, which is a painless lethargy caused by lowered blood sugar levels, even when there is food in the stomach. What that food lacks, however, is the quantity and nutritional components needed to maintain strength. The elephants become comatose, spending a lot of time asleep, devoid of energy to move far from water. Inevitably, one day, they simply cannot get up and then the end comes quickly and quietly. They die surrounded by their loved ones who bring comfort and love right up until the end, and who then have time to mourn as they "bury" their dead, comforting each other in their bereavement. (It is this natural die-off that in the past gave rise to the legendary myth of "the elephants' graveyard" when the bones of many elephants were found near sources of permanent water).Hot on the heels of the Tsavo die-off came the rampant poaching of the seventies and eighties, and this pushed the population rapidly below the optimum downward swing of the natural vegetational seesaw, foreshortening the grassland cycle. This then is the only unnatural event in Tsavo, and one that could impact negatively on the grazers in the long-term since they may not be afforded the time they need to proliferate to the point when they can withstand another woodland cycle. The woodlands are regenerating, and regenerating rapidly, so Tsavo will revert to what it was like when the Park was first proclaimed dense scrub thicket. Thus, within just l5 years, Tsavo's once over population of elephants became an under population threatened with annihilation. The poaching was now fuelled by in-house greed and corruption forcing the elephants to abandon huge swathes of the Park, too fearful to return for the next 30 years. Ironically they sought shelter around human habitation where the AK 47 and G3 wielding killers could not easily get at them, but this created a different set of problems that of the so-called "problem elephants". Only the imposition of the Ivory Ban in l989 brought a reprieve and only now, thirty years later, are the elephants beginning to venture back into the interior of the Park.The role of Elephantsis a very crucial one, crucial to the survival of many other species both large and small. They are Nature's Bulldozers, their most important function that of recycling the nutrients and trace elements locked in wood, drawn up out of soil by tree roots over decades. Only when the trees themselves are felled are these rare earths released back into the environment to become available to other plant and animal life less well equipped. No other animal can, for instance, recycle the precious minerals of the giant Baobab, a long lived colossus extremely rich in calcium and trace elements. The debris of trees felled by elephants shield pioneer grasses and shrubs from trampling; deep rooted perennial grasses follow, the grazers proliferate and browsers decline. Natural selection ensures that the gene pool is honed and that the strongest survive in readiness for another thicket phase as elephant numbers fall. Then, if the elephants can be adequately protected, their numbers will rise again in tandem with the regeneration of the woodlands, and this then is the natural order of events - a cyclical vegetational seesaw of woodland to grassland and back to woodland inextricably intertwined with elephant numbers.It is the elephants who create the trails that benefit all others, roads that not only select the best alignment over difficult terrain, but also unerringly point the way to water, acting as conduits for run-off rainwater directing it to the waterholes and ensuring that they fill more surely and rapidly. Elephants create the waterholes in the first place and enlarge them every time they bathe, carrying away copious quantities of mud plastered on their huge bodies. The puddling action of their giant feet seals the bottom against seepage, so that water lasts longer in the dry seasons benefiting all life and relieving feeding pressures near permanent sources. Elephants also have the ability to expose hidden subsurface supplies buried deep beneath the sands of the dry riverbeds, making it accessible to others by tunnelling at an angle with their trunks. Their sheer weight compresses the sand bringing water closer to the surface as dozens of elephants patiently await their turn to drink from these holes. Were the elephants not there to fulfil this function, all water dependent species would not be able to exist in such places - a case in point being the Tiva river in Tsavo, which literally died faunally when the elephants left.Elephants provide in other ways too, breaking down branches to bring browse to a lower level, thereby making it accessible to the many smaller creatures that share their world. By felling trees they create the space that allows seedlings to take root and grow uninhibited by their parents' shadow. The very rapid metabolism of an elephant ensures copious quantities of dung, the very life support for the largest scarabs, who roll it into balls and bury it deep below the ground, thereby enriching the soil. The dung also attracts the insects that nourish a host of insectivorous birds, mammals and reptiles and because elephants have such an inefficient digestive system, it is particularly rich.The Future:-Tsavo provides an example of how Nature controls elephant populations. Whilst the natural die- off of elephant and the build-up to it has been well documented, unfortunately, no in-depth study of the subsequent sequence of events was undertaken, simply because gun brandishing poachers proved a deterrent. However, records and photographic evidence does exist within the Sheldrick Trust's Archives making a retrospective study feasible.One thing is sure, and that is that CITES which should have prevented the demise of the elephant by controlling the trade has failed in its mandate. Instead it has evolved into a political lobby bent on trade and the endangered species have become mere pawns in a money game. In fact, in the past CITES agents themselves orchestrated the laundering of illegal ivory into a stockpile in Burundi, accepting bribes as a pay-off for the CITES stamp. Now, more than ever, when the elephants are so very vulnerable, their social family fabric torn to tatters, should the worldSAY NO TO IVORY,no matter in what form. Each and every one of us can, and should, at least do that. Every piece of ivory is a haunting memory of a once proud and majestic animal, that should have lived three score years and ten; who has loved and been loved, and was once a member of a close-knit family akin to our own; but who has suffered and died in unspeakable agony to yield a tooth for a trinket. Something so symbolic of death and suffering can never be beautiful.A True/False QuizThink you know somethingabout elephants? Well here you can test your knowledge about tusks and see why theres such an uproar about ivory. Ready?True or false?All elephants grow tusks.False! AllAfricanelephants grow tusks, but only some male Asian elephants have tusks. Some female Asian elephants have very tiny tusks called tushes but no long tusks.

An Asian elephant. Photo Credit: Jayanand Govindaraj

No two tusks are alike.True! In fact, researchers who track elephants use the appearance of the tusks, along with the ears, to identify individuals.If an elephant breaks a tusk it will grow back.False! Tusks are teeth and just like our teeth, if one is broken, it stays broken. But unlike our teeth, a tusk can continue growing from the root if that isnt damaged. Its not unusual to see an elephant with only one tusk because the other was injured to the point that it stopped growing.The tusk is the equivalent of our incisor teeth (the tooth on either side of our two front teeth). It is made of ivory, a material soft enough to be carved, which is the root of the poaching problem.All elephant teeth are ivory.False! Only the tusks are made of ivoryan extremely dense dentine covered with a carveable calcified rind called cementum. The rest of the elephants teeth are made from enamel, dentin and pulp, like ours.

Photo Credit US Fish & Wildlife Service Forensics Lab

We can tell an elephants age by the length of its tusk.True! As long as the tusk hasnt been broken, it can reveal an elephants age relative to other elephants of the same sex and species. Because most of the elephants with the longest tusks have been killed, their genes are no longer passed along. That is one of the reasons authorities are confiscating shorter and thinner tusks every year. Another reason: Since most of the oldest bull elephants have been poached for their longer tusks, poachers now are going after the females and the younger males. This spells disaster for breeding herds.One of the largest tusks ever found was about 10 feet long and weighed over 200 pounds. Tusks can grow up to seven inches a year.

Kilimanjaro Tusks, ca. 1898Most elephants are right- or left-tusk dominant.True! Like humans, elephants have a preference over which tusk they use for their primary jobs (such as breaking branches, digging for water, ripping bark off trees). You can tell which tusk is dominant by looking at it the most-used tusk will be shorter and rounder at the tip.A tusk can be removed without killing the elephant.False! In fact, a broken tusk, which is common, can lead to a life-threatening infection. But poachers use darts, poison and high-powered automatic rifles with night scopes to take elephants down and, while they are dying, the tusks are gouged out of from the living elephants skull. The elephants die an agonizing, slow death from hemorrhage.

Photo Boubandjida Safari Lodge courtesy of International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW)

Like an iceberg, much of an elephants tusk is below the surface.True! Only two thirds of the elephants tusk is made of ivory and is visible while the elephant is living. The base of the tusk is embedded in the skull and made of pulp, blood and nerves like the roots of our own teeth.Only elephants produce ivory.False! Ivory can be taken from hippos, walruses, sperm whales, horn-billed birds and even from fossilized mammoths. What makes elephant ivory so prized is its softer carvability.We can prevent poaching by dying or scarring the tusks of living elephants.False! Though many have proposed solutions like this, they are impractical as elephants would have to be darted with anesthetic or their watering holes infused with dye. Darting is far from an exact science and can kill or maim an elephant. Surface scars into the ivory could be repaired by sanding or, if they are too deep, could cause infection. Placing chemicals in the water supply risks poisoning the elephants and other smaller animals who use the same source, but also doesnt solve the problem of making future growth of the tusk undesirable.There is an alternative to ivory.True! Synthetic celluloid ivory (also called French Ivory) can be crafted to the same standards as genuine ivory and its price in China is less than 20% of real ivory.A palm-like tree called Tagua gives us 7-20 nuts that can be carved like ivory and are used for everything from jewelry to umbrella handlesan inexpensive and renewable alternative.

A piece made from synthetic ivory. Source: Pin It

Tagua Nuts and carvings. Photo Credit Suzette Leith

And piano keys?Do elephants still need to die for those? No! There are alternativessuch as plastic and resinand evolved musicians wont use anything but non-ivory keys. Read what Piano Man Billy Joel has to say about the subjecthere.


It is okay to buy and sell antique ivory items.False! While some rationalize the market for old ivory by saying the elephant died years ago, so whats the harm? The truth is that any market for ivory creates a demand for tusks, which is leading to the rapid extinction of elephants. In fact, the more valuable ivory is seen as being, the more likely it is that people who cant afford antiques will buy new ivory as an investment. In addition, its hard to tell the age of carved ivory, and new ivory can be artificially aged and papers forged about when it was bought/sold, making import and export exceptions for antique ivory a gigantic loophole that international traders abuse to profit from their horrendous crimes.Think of ivory as the new fur. Would you wear a fur coateven an old one? If you own ivory you can keep it; just dont wear it or sell it. Become part of the movement to remove ads for ivory from sites likeGoogleandeBay. If you live in the U.S., sign a petition to ban ivory trade in your statehere.The United States has banned the sale of ivory.False! The U.S. currently is the second largest market for ivory in the world, with China being #1. In February 2014 apartial banon the import and export of elephant ivory was put in place and is now in force, but sadly there are exceptions that permit antique, noncommercial, and personal use import and export. Just as bad, it continues to allow inhumane hunters to import elephant heads as trophies. No, this is not the 18th century, but it sounds like it, right?There isnt muchyoucan do to stop poachers.False! One of the more effective ways to stop elephant poaching is to eliminate the market for ivory.On October 4, 2014,The Global March for Elephants and Rhinosis conducting worldwide educational marches about the ivory trade in 105 cities worldwide. You can go to their site to sign petitions to ban import and sale of ivory and you can find more petitions at96 Elephants.You can use Twitter and Facebook to educate your friends and family know about this issue and what they can doincluding never buying, selling or wearing ivory.Finally, you can support organizations likeBig Lifethat are stopping poachers on the ground in Africa.

So, the truth about tusks?They belong on elephantsnot on us, not in stores, not on our walls, and not on the auction block.

Painting by Sarah Soward: Sarah Soward ArmstrongASIAN ELEPHANTAND AFRICAN ELEPHANTENDANGEREDSPECIESThroughout history, the elephant has played an important role in human economies, religion, and culture. The immense size, strength, and stature of this largest living land animal has intrigued people of many cultures for hundreds of years.In Asia, elephants have served as beasts of burden in war and peace. Some civilizations have regarded elephants as gods, and they have been symbols of royalty for some.Elephants have entertained us in circuses and festivals around the world. For centuries, the elephants massive tusks have been prized for their ivory.The African elephant once roamed the entire continent of Africa, and the Asian elephant ranged from Syria to northern China and the islands of Indonesia. These abundant populations have been reduced to groups in scattered areas south of the Sahara and in isolated patches in India, Sri Lanka, and Southeast Asia.Demand for ivory, combined with habitat loss from human settlement, has led to a dramatic decline in elephant populations in the last few decades. In 1930, there were between 5 and 10 million African elephants. By 1979, there were 1.3 million.In 1989, when they were added to the international list of the most endangered species, there were about 600,000 remaining, less than one percent of their original number.Asian elephants were never as abundant as their African cousins, and today they are even more endangered thanAfrican elephants. At the turn of the century, there were an estimated 200,000 Asian elephants. Today there are probably no more than 35,000 to 40,000 left in the wild.DescriptionAt first glance, African andAsian elephantsappear the same. An informed eye, however, can distinguish the two species. An African bull elephant (adult male) can weigh as much as 14,000 to 16,000 pounds (6300 to 7300 kg) and grow to 13 feet (four meters) at the shoulder. Its smaller relative, the Asian elephant, averages 5,000 pounds (2300 kg) and 9 to 10 feet (3 meters) tall.TheAfrican elephantis sway-backed and has a tapering head, while the Asian elephant is hump-backed and has a huge, domed head. Probably the most interesting difference between the two species is their ears. Oddly, the African elephants large ears match the shape of the African continent, and the Asian elephants smaller ears match the shape of India.Elongated incisors (front teeth), more commonly known as tusks, grow up to 7 inches (18 cm) per year. All elephants have tusks, except for femaleAsian elephants. The largest of the African bulls tusks can weigh as much as 160 pounds (73 kg) and grow to 12 feet (4 meters) long. Most animals this big, however, are gone; they were the first to be killed for their ivory.MostAfrican elephantslive on the savanna, but some live in forests or even deserts. Most Asian elephants live in forests. As herbivores (plant eaters), elephants consume grass, foliage, fruit, branches, twigs, and tree bark. Elephants spend three-quarters of its day eating, and they eats as much as 400 pounds (880 kg) of vegetation each day. For this task, they have only four teeth for chewing.In the hot climates of their native habitats, elephants need about 50 gallons (190 liters) of water to drink every day.Elephantsboast the largest nose in the world, which is actually part nose and part upper lip. It is a large natural hose, with a six-gallon (23-liter) capacity.Role in the EcosystemElephants are considered aKeystone speciesin the African landscape. They pull down trees, break up bushes, create salt licks, dig waterholes, and forge trails. Other animals, including humans, like the pygmies of the Central African Republic, depend on the openingselephantscreate in the forest and brush and in the waterholes they dig.Evenelephantdroppings are important to the environment. Baboons and birds pick through dung for undigested seeds and nuts, and dung beetles reproduce in these deposits. The nutrient-rich manure replenishes depleted soil. Finally, it is a vehicle for seed dispersal. Some seeds will not germinate unless they have passed through an elephants digestive system.BehaviorWildelephantshave strong family ties. The females and young are social, living in groups under the leadership of an older female or matriarch. Adult males are solitary, although they stay in contact with the females over great distances, using sounds well below the range of human hearing. Family groups communicate with each other using these low-frequency vibrations.It is an eerie sight to see several groups converging on a waterhole from miles apart, apparently by some prearranged signal, when human observers have heard nothing.The natural lifespan of an elephant, about 70 years, is comparable to a humans.Elephantsreach breeding age at about 15 years of age. Females generally give birth to one 200-pound baby after a 22-month pregnancy.Elephants and HumansHumans first tamedAsian elephantsmore than 4,000 years ago. In the past, humans used elephants in war. Elephants have been called the predecessors to the tank because of their immense size and strength. They were important to military supply lines as recently as the Vietnam War in the 1960s.AlthoughAfrican elephantsare harder to train than Asian, they too have worked for humans, mostly during wartime. For example, the elephants that carried Hannibals troops across the Alps to attack the Romans in 200 B.C. were African.In modern times humans useelephantsprimarily for heavy jobs like hauling logs. An elephant is the ultimate off-road vehicle and can get tremendous traction even on slippery mud. An elephant actually walks on its toes, aided by a great flesh-heel pad that can conform to the ground.In some remote areas of Southeast Asia it is still more economical to use elephants for work than it is to use modern machinery. Scientific researchers use elephants for transportation in the hard-to-reach, swampy areas they study, and tourists ride elephants to view wildlife in Asian reserves.Elephantsare the ideal mobile viewing platform in the tall grass found in many parks.Asia has always had a strong cultural connection to the elephant. In Chinese, the phrase to ride an elephant sounds the same as the word for happiness. When Thailand was called Siam, the sacredWhite Elephantdominated the flag and culture. According to Thai legend, in the beginning all elephants were white and flew through the air, like the clouds and rain.Thousands of years later, a white elephant entered the side of Queen Sirimahamaya as she lay sleeping. Later she gave birth to Prince Siddhartha, the future Guatama Buddha. Among the predominantly Buddhist kingdoms of Southeast Asia, the most auspicious event possible during a monarchs reign was the finding of awhite elephant.Causes of EndangermentHabitat LossElephants need a large amount of habitat because they eat so much. Humans have become their direct competitors for living space. Human populations in Africa and Asia have quadrupled since the turn of the century, the fastest growth rate on the planet. Forest and savanna habitat has been converted to cropland, pastureland for livestock, and timber for housing and fuel.Humans do not regardelephantsas good neighbors. When humans and elephants live close together, elephants raid crops, and rogue elephants (aggressive male elephants during the breeding season) rampage through villages. Local people shoot elephants because they fear them and regard them as pests.Some countries have established culling programs: park officials or hunters kill a predetermined number ofelephantsto keep herds manageable and minimize human-elephant conflicts.OverexploitationHunting has been a major cause of the decline in elephant populations.Elephantsbecame prized trophies for big-game hunters after Europeans arrived in Africa. More recently, and more devastatingly, hunters have slaughtered elephants for their ivory tusks. The ivory trade became a serious threat to elephants in the 1970s.A sudden oil shortage caused the world economy to collapse, and ivory became more valuable than gold. In fact, ivory has been called white gold because it is beautiful, easily carved, durable, and pleasing to the touch. Most of the worlds ivory is carved in Japan, Hong Kong, and other Asian countries, where skilled carvers depend on a supply of ivory for their livelihoods.Huntingelephantsis no longer legal in many African countries, butpoachingwas widespread until very recently. For many the high price of ivory, about $100 a pound in the 1980s, was too tempting to resist. Local people often had few other ways to make a living, and subsistence farmers or herders could make more by selling the tusks of one elephant than they could make in a dozen years of farming or herding.As the price of ivory soared, poachers became more organized, using automatic weapons, motorized vehicles, and airplanes to chase and kill thousands ofelephants. To governments and revolutionaries mired in civil wars and strapped for cash, poaching ivory became a way to pay for more firearms and supplies.Poaching has caused the collapse ofelephants social structure as well as decimating their numbers. Poachers target the biggest elephants because their tusks are larger. They often kill all the adults in the group, leaving young elephants without any adults to teach them migration routes, dry-season water sources, and other learned behavior. Many of Africas remaining elephant groups are leaderless subadults and juveniles.Conservation ActionsProtected AreasThere are many national parks or reserves in Africa where elephant habitat is protected. Many people believe, however, that the parks are not large enough and are too isolated from each other to allowelephantpopulations to recover. (SeeIsland Biogeography). Some countries are developing refuges linked by corridors to allow seasonal migration and genetic exchange.Human use of the same land to grow crops, however, makes it difficult to create linkages between reserves without increasing conflicts between humans andelephants.Sometimes reserves are too successful. When there are too many elephants in a reserve for the available vegetation, they destroy the habitat. They also forage outside the park and destroy crops.EcotourismOne factor that has convinced African governments to take strong measures to protectelephantsis the rising importance of the tourist trade to their economies. Kenya alone receives $50 million a year from tourists coming to see elephants. The national parks bring in much-needed income, and tourism is a source of income that can continue into the future because it does not deplete wildlife populations.Trade ProhibitionWorldwide concern over the decline of the elephant led to a complete ban on the ivory trade in 1990.Elephantshave been placed on Appendix I ofCITES, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, which means all trade in elephant parts is prohibited. Some governments have cracked down hard on poachers. In some countries, park rangers are told to shoot poachers on sight.Not all governments support the ivory ban. In Zimbabwe, South Africa, and Botswana, for example, people farmelephantson ranches for trophy hunters. Government officials argue that trade in ivory should be regulated, not prohibited. They say countries that are managing their elephants well should be allowed to sell ivory in order to pay for conservation measures, such as park guards and equipment.Others argue that the only effective solution is a total ban, because there is no way to distinguish ivory of elephants that were legally killed from that ofelephantsthat were poached. The debate over the effectiveness, fairness, and wisdom of the ivory ban continues.Asian ivory craftspeople are turning to other sources of raw material for their carvings. Some are turning to walrus tusks instead ofelephantivory, shifting hunting pressure to walruses.Captive BreedingCaptive breeding ofAfrican elephantsprovides elephants for zoos so zoos do not have to take more elephants from the wild for display. The Jacksonville Zoological Park has established aSpecies Survival Plan (SSP)for the African elephant.Questions for ThoughtDo you find it odd that a species that still has hundreds of thousand of individuals is consideredendangered?Why do you thinkelephantsare regarded as endangered?Which elephants chances for survival are better, the African or the Asian? What factors lead you to this conclusion?Do you think banning trade in ivory affects other species?If the ban on trade in ivory is successful in stopping poaching, do you think the elephants survival is assured? Is your answer the same for African andAsian elephants?Are reserves the solution to the problem of habitat loss? What else could or should be done?What Is It About an Elephant's Tusks That Make Them So Valuable?Chinese demand for ivory is driving conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo. REBECCA J. ROSEN SEP 6, 2012Chinese demand for ivory is driving conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

ReutersIn Garamba National Park in the northeastern corner of Congo, thousands of elephants are being killed each year for their tusks, their carcasses discarded like hair clippings on a barbershop's floor.Ina beautiful and brutal report,New York Timesreporter Jeffrey Gettleman describes the carnage, both animal and human, in harrowing detail. Last year, he writes, "broke the record for the amount of illegal ivory seized worldwide, at 38.8 tons (equaling the tusks from more than 4,000 dead elephants). Law enforcement officials say the sharp increase in large seizures is a clear sign that organized crime has slipped into the ivory underworld, because only a well-oiled criminal machine -- with the help of corrupt officials -- could move hundreds of pounds of tusks thousands of miles across the globe, often using specially made shipping containers with secret compartments." (Although there are many sources of ivory such as walruses, rhinoceros, and narwhals, elephant ivory has always been the most highly sought because of its particular texture, softness, and its lack of a tough outer coating of enamel.)What in the world could fuel such demand for animal teeth? An ascendant Chinese middle class, whose millions can now afford the prized material. According to Gettlemen, as much of 70 percent of the illegal ivory heads to China, where a pound can fetch as much as $1,000. "The demand for ivory has surged to the point that the tusks of a single adult elephant can be worth more than 10 times the average annual income in many African countries," Gettlemen writes.This explains the mechanics. Demand rises, price goes up, and the costs poachers and smugglers are willing to endure increase in sync. But what underlies the demand? Why do so many Chinese people want these elongated cones of dentin?The comparison to diamonds is commonly made: Diamonds, like ivory, are a natural substance with little inherent value but prized social significance. Desire in richer lands tumbles poorer societies into resource wars and labor abuse. And certainly the modern dynamics are the same. But demand for ivory is something demand for diamonds is not: ancient. And its history as a technology, a material with few peers for centuries, propels this demand even today.Diamonds, as a cultural symbol,are an invention of the 20th century, the result of a collaboration between Mad Men and De Beers. Ivory, in contrast, has been used and valued for millennia. In China, according toIvory's Ghostsby John Frederick Walker, artistic ivory carvings exist from as far back as the sixth millennium BCE, excavated in Zhejiang Province. "By the Shang Dinasty (ca. 1600-ca. 1046 BCE) a highly developed carving tradition had taken hold," he writes. Specimens from this period are today in museums around the world.But ivory wasn't solely prized for its aesthetic value. Ivory's properties -- durability, the ease with which it can be carved, and its absence of splintering -- uniquely suited it for a variety of uses. Archaeologists and historians have recovered many practical tools made out of ivory: buttons, hairpins, chopsticks, spear tips, bow tips, needles, combs, buckles, handles, billiard balls, and so on. In more modern times we are all familiar with ivory's continued use as piano keys until very recently; Steinway only discontinued its ivory keys in 1982.What do many of these things have in common? Today we make them out of plastic, but for thousands of years, ivory was among the best, if not the very best, option -- the plastic of the pre-20th-century world. For some of these items (piano keys being the most prominent example) we didn't have a comparable alternative until very recently. Walker writes:Synthetic polymers had been in widespread use on keyboards since the 1950s but found few fans among serious pianists. In the 1980s Yamaha developed Ivorite, made from casein (milk protein) and an inorganic hardening compound, which was trumpeted as having both the moisture-absorbing quality of ivory and greater durability. Unfortunately some of the first keyboards cracked and yellowed, requiring refitting with a reformulated veneer. Clearly there was room for improvement. Steinway helped fund a $232,000 study at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York, in the late 1980s to develop a superior synthetic for keyboard covers. In 1993 the project's team created (and patented) an unusual polymer -- RPlvory -- that more closely duplicated the microscopically random peaks and valleys on the surface of ivory that allow pianists' fingers to stick or slip at will.That usefulness, combined with its warm luster and its receptivity to engravings, meant that it gained stature as a luxury good from the get-go. China's demand for ivory today shows the staying power of a luxury symbol, even if a substance's inherent qualities have been superseded by new materials.Where does that leave the elephants of Garamba National Park, their poachers, the smugglers, and a rising China? Is there a way to remarry ivory's cultural significance to its material one, to instill the idea that ivory is nothing more than an animal's tooth?The power of the idea of ivory is immense, and shows no signs of waning. For the elephants that bare them, perhaps the only hope is that the price will go up and up, through greater regulation and greater monitoring, putting ivory once again out of reach for even the middle class. The irony of this is that the side effect of the best way to staunch the flow of ivory and the slaughter of elephants may be the reinforcement of the cultural myth: Make ivory even rarer, even more reserved for only the very few, and esteem for it will only rise. JUMP TO COMMENTS Beloved African Elephant Killed for Ivory"Monumental" LossPopular with tourists, Satao fell to poachers May 30, group says.ByChristine Dell'Amore,National GeographicPUBLISHEDJUNE 16, 2014

Satao drinks at a water hole in Tsavo East National Park, Kenya, in 2013, when the magnificent tusker was in his prime.

PHOTOGRAPH BY MARK DEEBLE AND VICTORIA STONE,WWW.MARKDEEBLE.WORDPRESS.COMOne ofKenya's most adored elephants, who had giant tusks and was known as Satao, has been killed for his ivorya "monumental" loss, experts say.Poachers shot the bull elephant with a poisoned arrow inTsavo East National Park, waited for him to die a painful death, and hacked off his face to remove his ivory,according to the Tsavo Trust, an area nonprofit that works with wildlife and local communities.Satao was particularly appealing to poachers as a tusker, a type of male elephant with a genetic makeup that produces unusually large tusks. His tusks were more than 6.5 feet (2 meters) long."Kenya as a country contains probably the last remaining big tuskers in the world," saidPaula Kahumbu, a Kenya-based wildlife conservationist with the nonprofit WildlifeDirect. (Read Kahumbu's essay on Satao's death in theGuardian.)"To losean animal like Sataois a massive loss to Kenya. He was a major tourist attraction to that part of Tsavo," said Kahumbu, who was a2011 National Geographic Emerging Explorer.The elephant was killed May 30, but members of the trust announced his death on June 13, after verifying the carcass's identity. (Related: "Efforts to Curb Ivory Trafficking Spreading, but Killing Continues.")"It is with enormous regret that we confirm there is no doubt that Satao is dead, killed by an ivory poacher's poisoned arrow to feed the seemingly insatiable demand for ivory in far-off countries," the Tsavo Trust said in a statement."A great life lost so that someone far away can have a trinket on their mantelpiece." (Read "Blood Ivory" inNational Geographicmagazine.)

Satao was killed by poachers and his face was hacked off in Tsavo East National Park in May 2014.

PHOTOGRAPH BY MARK DEEBLE AND VICTORIA STONE, WWW.MARKDEEBLE.WORDPRESS.COM"Massive and Hostile" ExpanseSatao died despite his high profile, which brought special protection."It's also a reflection on the situation in Kenya that even in a place where all efforts are made to protect the elephants, it's still very difficult to protect them," Kahumbu said. (Watchvideo: "Elephants in Crisis.")For the past 18 months, the Tsavo Trust and the Kenya Wildlife Service have been monitoring Satao's movements by air and on foot. "When he was alive, his enormous tusks were easily identifiable, even from the air," according to the Tsavo Trust.Satao generally kept to a predictably small area with four other bull elephants. But in search of food following big rains, he had recently moved into a boundary of the park that's a known poaching hot spot, especially for hunters with poisoned arrows. (Also see: "Poachers Slaughter Dozens of Elephants in Key African Park.")Authorities noticed this and protection efforts were stepped up, but the area Satao entered "is a massive and hostile expanse for any single anti-poaching unit to cover, at least one thousand square kilometers [about 390 square miles] in size," according to the Tsavo Trust."Understaffed and with inadequate resources given the scale of the challenge, [Kenya Wildlife Service] ground units have a massive uphill struggle to protect wildlife in this area." (Related: "In War to Save Elephants, Rangers Appeal for Aid.")PostbyTHE TSAVO TRUST.Poaching's TollAbout 472,000 to 690,000African elephantslikely roam the continent today, down from possibly five million in the 1930s and 1940s. The animals areclassified as vulnerable by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.Conservationists estimate that 30,000 to 38,000 elephants are poached annually for their ivory, which is shuttled out of West African and, increasingly, East African seaports en route mainly to China and other Asian consumer countries such as Thailand. (Seea graphic of elephant poaching in Africa.)The whereabouts of Satao's tusks are unknown, but Kahumbu said that they are likely on their way to being exported."What worries me is we're seeing increasing amounts of ivory moving through Kenya, and it's a real indicator of the corruption," she said.Kenya has a history of dealing with celebrity elephants."One of the most powerful messages that Kenya ever made was when the first president of Kenya, Jomo Kenyatta, gave presidential protection to an elephant [named Ahmed] because of the size of his tusks," she said. (Read about how China and other countries are crushing their ivory stocks.)"He died of old age because he had two armed guards with him 24-7," Kahumbu said. "This is the kind of measure our president Uhuru Kenyatta needs to do," Kahumbu emphasized."If we fail to protect these elephants, we lose the gene pool of big tuskers forever in Africa." Most read Live feeds Top Videos News Politics Football Celebs TV & Film Weird NewsTRENDINGFIFAQUEEN'S SPEECHCHARLIE CHARLIE CHALLENGEJED ALLENSAVE ABI Sport Technology Money Travel UsVsTh3m Home News World news ElephantsThe elephant slayer: Butchery of poacher who killed more than SEVENTY elephants and inadvertently helped fund terrorism 09:53, 5 FEBRUARY 2014 BYTOM PARRYTo dirt-poor Kenyans like John Sumokwo, 33, it is just a heartless way to make a bit of quick cash no matter where the big profits end up 3785Shares Share Tweet +1A Kenyan poacher has boasted how he brutally slaughtered more than 70 elephants for their valuable tusks.John Sumokwo, 33, is part of a sickening 12billion-a-year ivory trade which isfunding terrorism and endangering the species.It has been dubbed the white gold of jihad and the brutal slaughter of African elephants for their ivory is helping extremists to bankroll jihadists around the world.The sickening trade is said to be worth around 4.5billion to some of the most feared international groups, including those linked to the ruthless al-Shabaab network.But to dirt-poor Kenyans like Sumokwo it is just a heartless way to make a bit of quick cash no matter where the big profits end up.The convicted poacher boasted how he has butchered more than 70 elephants for their tusks selling them on to shadowy dealers for a fraction of what they can fetch on the black market.He described how he speared the magnificent beasts through the heart before hacking off their trunks, skinning their heads and cutting off the ivory with an axe.Rowan Griffiths / Daily MirrorInterview: Sumokwo, 33, speaks with Mirror man Tom ParrySumokwos revelations come just days before Britain hosts world leaders for an international summit on how to combat the barbaric killings and end the illegal trafficking.Motivated by the massive demand for ivory trinkets and jewellery in China and the Far East, poachers like Sumokwo, 33, are bringing the worlds elephant population to the brink of extinction.So great is the threat, British troops from the Parachute Regiment have been training Kenyan wildlife rangers involved in fighting back.Sumokwo, who was finally caught red-handed after running an ivory poaching gang for a decade, was released from prison two months ago after serving just over a year behind bars. But he showed little remorse as he recalled his kills in horrific detail.I remember the way the elephants scream when they die, said the father of six, vibrating his tongue against the roof of his mouth to imitate the sound.When I killed the elephants, the others would shout. They were extremely distressed.They would run around looking for ways of defending the one I had attacked. I remember one young calf saw me kill her mum.She ran off for protection from other animals. My attacks were so frequent that the elephants could not mate and have calves. There were not enough male bull elephants left.To me, this was just business I didnt think about it any other way. The buyer gave me money and then sold it off to the big syndicates in Mombasa.AlamyHorrific: Elephant butchered for 'white gold'With his primitive weapons, Sumokwo slaughtered one in seven ofthe elephantsin the idyllic Lake Kamnarok Game Reserve.We spoke to him in the town of Kabarnet, high above the Kerio Valley, which were his killing fields.Shielded by dense vegetation, the valley floor was once a place where herds of elephants roamed undisturbed. Now there are only 500 left.He explained: We killed them with spears. They were extremely sharp. I would always have two spears because if you did not kill the elephant with the first one he would try to kill me.Elephants are not easy. If they see you they can run after you and kill you. I was chased several times, but I got more experience.I knew exactly where to put the spear. It has to go in near the heart, and then the elephant dies immediately.I would climb up a tree and I would wait for them to come to that area to graze. I studied their movements, so I knew exactly where they went.The more I killed the longer it would take to get the next one because the elephants would remember where I hid and go a different way. As they approached, other men in my gang would push the animals and kick them, so they came in my direction."We targeted the old bull elephants because they have the longest tusks.Valuable: Ivory recovered from poachers being sorted by rangersSumokwo said he and his gang were paid 80 a kilo for the ivory about 9,600 for an average bull elephant.In China the tusks can fetch more than 2,000 a kilo. It is this massive profit margin that has led to the involvement of terrorist organisations.Andrea Crosta, of pressure group the Elephant Action League said ivory trafficking funded up to 40% of the cost of al-Shabaabs army of 5,000 people.He estimated the jihadists made up to 365,000 a month from ivory alone. The tusks Sumokwo hacked off with an axe were sold in Mombasa then some will have been sold on to al-Shabaab. The terror gang last year killed more than 60 people in the Westgate mall massacre in Nairobi.White Widow: Samantha LewthwaiteA key figure among the jihadists is White Widow Samantha Lewthwaite.The mum of four, from Aylesbury, Bucks, is the widow of one of the 7/7 bombers, and is wanted for seven murders in Kenya.The lethal combination of wildlife destruction and terrorism is the reason 50 world leaders have been invited to next weeks London Conference on the Illegal Wildlife Trade, hosted by Prime Minister David Cameron.Prince Charles and Prince William are also due to attend. Yesterday Foreign Secretary William Hague, who will chair the conference, said: We know that the trade feeds corruption and organised crime and creates regional instability.I know that the challenge we face is significant and that the threat is highly organised and ruthless. But it can be defeated and we can reverse the decline in species. I am determined we do so before it is too late.Recent figures estimate the worldwide illegal wildlife trade is worth a total 12billion each year making it the fourth most lucrative illegal activity behind only drugs, counterfeiting and human trafficking.Kenyan organisation Wildlife Direct has described the trade as being the same as the previous blood diamond crisis in West Africa.Analysts believe terrorists are ultimately behind a surge in poaching which has seen up to 60,000 elephants and 1,650 rhinos killed in the last two years. Last year a record 41 tonnes of illegal ivory was seized the highest total in 25 years. Britain too is experiencing the terrorist-driven boom in illegal ivory.Last year a specialist UK Border Force team seized 80.7kg at British airports, compared with just 3.3kg in 2010.Professional Somalian gangs have been using night-vision equipment to strafe large herds of elephants in Kenya and Tanzania with assault rifles.Kenyas elephant population has plunged from 167,000 30 years ago to just 30,000. In Africa, there are now just over half a million, compared with three to five million in the 1930s.Rowan Griffiths / Daily MirrorConvicted: Poacher Sumokwo was released after just over a yearPoachers such as Sumokwo will now face life sentences for killing endangered animals, as part of crackdown which came into force a month ago.But animal welfare charity International Fund for Animal Welfare believes much more needs to be done to stop warlords sending bandits with AK47s to get ivory to fund more weapons.Charity official Evan Mkala said: Ivory poaching is war. Wearing ivory kills human beings as well as elephants.This whole business is something the world can do without.What you can doAhead of next week's summit in London on the illegal wildlife trade, the International Fund for Animal Welfare asked the British public to donate any unwanted ivory items so they can be removed from the marketplace and destroyed. There is still time to donate to the charity. If you have unwanted ivory please call IFAW on 020 7587 6700. To find out more about IFAW's essential work and how you can get involved visitwww.ifaw.orgPoachers inZimbabwehave killed more than 300 elephants and countless other safari animals by cyanide poisoning,The Telegraphhas learned.The full extent of the devastation wreaked in Hwange, the country's largest national park, has been revealed by legitimate hunters who discovered what conservationists say is the worst single massacre in southern Africa for 25 years.Pictures taken by the hunters, which have been obtained exclusively byThe Telegraph, reveal horrific scenes. Parts of the national park, whose more accessible areas are visited by thousands of tourists each year, can be seen from the air to be littered with the deflated corpses of elephants, often with their young calves dead beside them, as well as those of other animals.There is now deep concern that the use of cyanide first revealed in July, but on a scale that has only now emerged represents a new and particularly damaging technique in the already soaring poaching trade.Zimbabwean authorities said that 90 animals were killed this way. But the hunters who captured these photographs say they have conducted a wider aerial survey and counted the corpses of more than 300.Related Articles China imposes one-year ivory ban on eve of Prince William visit27 Feb 2015 Help stop slaughter of elephants, David Attenborough tells Xi Jinping23 Feb 2015 South African rhino poaching deaths nears 1,00019 Dec 2013 Chinese man caught smuggling ivory from Zimbabwe25 Oct 2013 Kenya to microchip every rhino's horn16 Oct 2013 Mugabe buses in African wildlife for UN summit propaganda28 Aug 2013 The fun and easy way to learn a new languageSponsored by BabbelPoachers killed the elephants over the past three months by lacing waterholes and salt licks with cyanide. Animals are drawn to them during the dry season in the already arid and remote south-eastern section of the 5,660-square mile park.After the elephants died, often collapsing just a few yards from the source, lions, hyenas and vultures which fed on their carcasses were also struck down, as were other animals such as kudu and buffalo that shared the sa