Elephants are probably the most intelligent of the creatures we share this planet with; they are also capable of strong emotions. And soon, they will cease to exist because we keep killing them.
A recent report released by the United Nations on the world wildlife day shows that more African elephants are being killed for ivory than are being born, despite poaching levels falling for the fourth year in a row in 2015.
The new data, released here, shows about 60% of elephant deaths are at the hands of poachers, meaning the overall population is most likely to be falling. The situation is even worse in central and West Africa where high levels of poaching are still evident.
But so what if we lose all our elephants?
Well, if we do lose our elephants then the forest and savannah ecosystems could suffer greatly. You see, elephants directly influence forest composition and density, and they can alter the broader landscape.
In tropical forest, elephants create clearings and gaps in the canopy that encourage tree regeneration. In the savannas, they reduce bush cover to create an environment favourable to a mix of browsing and grazing animals.
The seeds of many plant species are dependent on passing through an elephant’s digestive tract before they can germinate. It is calculated that at least a third of tree species in central African forests rely on elephants in this way for distribution of seeds.
Poaching has already been stated as the biggest problem elephants have but it is not the only one. Due to expanding human settlements, plantation development and the construction of infrastructure such as roads, canals and pipelines, elephants are also losing their homes.
As a result, the level of human-elephant conflict rises as they are forced to access resources wherever they find it.
With the revelation, the United Nations is hoping to force governments and various organizations to act responsibly by putting in place stricter regulations that will safeguard the lives of elephants and inevitably, our environment.