What is World Elephant Day?
World Elephant Day is an international event created to raise awareness about the threats elephants face in today's world. Conservation organizations work to raise awareness and to promote these beautiful animals while finding ways to protect and preserve their species. World Elephant Day is held annually on August 12, and this year, 2021, is the 10th Anniversary of this important event.
Poaching, habitat loss, human conflict, and mistreatment in captivity are all threats that have significantly affected the elephant population around the world. Various foundations and environmental preservation agencies have been working to prevent poaching, discourage the ivory trade, fight to free elephants in captivity, and promote better treatment of elephants.
What is the Mission of World Elephant Day?
Elephant population numbers have decreased by 62% over the last ten years. We can all agree that this huge decrease in such a short amount if time is shocking.
Since March 2021, the African forest elephant (Loxodonta Cyclotis) is now listed as Critically Endangered, the African savanna elephant (Loxodonta Africana) is listed as Endangered, and the Asian elephant (Elephas Maximus) is listed as endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™. They still need our help and support and creative solutions to prevent their extinction.
It is estimated that there are less than 450,000 African Elephants remaining in the wild and less than 50,000 Asian Elephants are alive today.
If this current trend of elephant population decline doesn't improve, elephants could be almost extinct in the next ten years. The mission of World Elephant Day is to bring attention to this urgent cause.
The History of World Elephant Day
World Elephant Day was first celebrated on August 12, 2012. The event was created by Canadian Filmmakers Patricia Sims and Michael Clark and Thailand's Elephant Reintroduction Foundation. On that same date, Sims and Clark released their documentary, "Return to the Forest," which depicted the reintroduction of captive Asian Elephants to their wild habitat.
Since its inception ten years ago, World Elephant Day is recognized and celebrated by over 100 wildlife organizations and millions of people worldwide. Patricia Sims continues to play a prominent role in the event as a leader and a supporter of the cause.
What is The Elephant Reintroduction Foundation?
Founded in Thailand in 2002, The Elephant Reintroduction Foundation is a charitable non-profit organization that co-founded World Elephant Day. This foundation works to reintroduce captive elephants to their wild habitat, restore elephant habitats, and educate people about elephant conservation.
The Elephant Reintroduction Foundation has successfully released over 100 elephants into various forest sanctuaries that the foundation manages. These sanctuaries are protected and are not visited or viewed by tourists. This has allowed the released elephants to roam free and even begin mating again in their natural environment. Since 2017, it is reported that 21 baby Asian Elephants have been born in the sanctuaries.
How is World Elephant Day Celebrated?
The best way to celebrate World Elephant Day is to take time to educate yourself about elephants, the threats they face, and how to help protect them. The more educated people become about this cause, the more we can spread knowledge about protecting elephant lives.
Over the past ten years, social media has played a significant and very positive role in raising awareness about elephant conservation. Sharing World Elephant Day posts on Facebook and Instagram and using the hashtag #worldelephantday has helped shine a light on this project.
Here are some other great ways you can celebrate World Elephant Day:
- Sign the World Elephant Day Pledge to join others around the world promote change in government policies
- Promote ethical elephant hashtags on your social media to raise awareness
- Check to make sure products you buy are ivory free
- Support an organization that protects elephants
- Only participate in ethical and conscious tourism when visiting elephant sanctuaries and orphanages
Threats Facing Elephants Today
African Elephants and Asian Elephants each face their own unique threats in their environments. However, the most prevalent threats are poaching, habitat loss, conflicts with humans, and abuse in captivity for circus performances, logging, tourism and so on.
Due to the high demands of ivory products, primarily in China, African Elephants are subject to illegal poaching. The street value for ivory exceeds the price of gold, so elephants are frequently hunted for their tusks. It is estimated that every year 20,000 African Elephants are killed by poachers.
Many foundations and agencies are working to stop poachers and discourage and ban the sale and purchase of ivory products.
Habitat loss due to deforestation tends to affect the Asian Elephant population more significantly. Asian Elephants are not only losing their habitats, but their habitats are becoming fragmented, which makes finding food and breeding more difficult while making poaching easier.
Currently, Asian Elephants have lost between 30% and 40% of their natural habitat.
Conflict With Humans
A dangerous result in elephants losing their natural habitat is the increase in human and elephant conflicts. Conflicts include crop damage, property damage, and human casualties. As a result, humans tend to seek revenge by killing the elephants that caused the damage.
Abuse in Captivity
Elephants are kept in captivity for various reasons, and because this industry is not regulated, they are often abused and mistreated. Asian Elephants, in particular, are frequently used in the tourism industry for shows and trekking. Trainers will often use inhumane tactics to train elephants, like whipping them with chains or poking them with bullhooks.
Why is World Elephant Day Important?
The future of the elephant species is in danger. With less than 450,000 African Elephants and less than 40,000 Asian Elephants left on the planet, we stand to see the extinction of the elephant within the next decade.
The extinction of elephants is tragic on its own, but because elephants are keystone species, their loss will damage the habitats and ecosystems they currently help to maintain. Without elephants, many plant and animal species will also suffer and face extinction.
Saving the elephants is possible, but it will take awareness, education, and activism on the local and international levels. We need to be striving for better protection policies, enforcement measures against poachers, restoration of habitats, and improved conditions for elephants in captivity.
Celebrating World Elephant Day is a great way to raise awareness about the elephant population's critical threats. It allows millions of people worldwide and various organizations to come together and cooperate to enact lasting change to help preserve the future of this beautiful animal.
About the Author:
Lauren Hulse is 31 years old and currently resides in Southwest Florida. She is an avid writer, traveler, adventurer, and animal lover. Lauren enjoys reading, writing, going to the beach with her two dogs and using her voice to raise awareness for great causes.