The average African elephant is 11 feet tall and weighs 7,000 to 13,000 pounds. It lives in family communities and often ages to more than 70 years. The only known predator of these animals averages between 5 and 6 feet tall and 170 pounds. These are human beings. Humans are the cause of the death of thousands of elephants each year. They are also the key to the elephant’s survival. Find out how you can be one of the humans responsible for saving the African elephant.
Where the Elephants Live
Unless you live in the region where the African elephant lives, you may not know much about this creature. It is found only in 37 African countries, according to the African Wildlife Foundation. Currently there are more than 470,000 African elephants living in the dense forests and open plains of those regions.
They are the largest land mammals on the planet, yet they are herbivores eating grasses, fruit, roots and bark. One adult African elephant can eat almost 300 pounds of food each day. Because they need so much food and water, elephants are constantly on the move.
The Life of Elephants
African elephants are focused on finding enough food and water, and taking care of their young. These creatures reproduce very slowly, with pregnancies lasting 22 months. The 250 pound baby is immediately in need of its mother’s milk, says PBS. But she has much help from others in the herd in taking care of the newborn elephant. Female relatives of the mother pitch in to help watch and raise the baby. For the young female elephants, this is their way of learning how to raise their own young one day. At 5 years old, the baby elephant is now weaned from the mother, weighs close to 2,000 pounds and is ready to make its own way in the herd.
Why are the African Elephants at Risk?
Unfortunately, humans decided some time ago that the ivory tusks of the elephant were valuable in many ways. Ground up for natural medicines or carved into ornate art pieces, ivory continues to be in demand. Time Magazine reports that in the first 9 months of 2013, more than 15,000 pounds of ivory, 3,000 tusks from 1,675 elephants, were seized in Hong Kong, a major distributor of ivory.
The killing of elephants for their ivory was banned in 1989 but poachers continue to kill elephants at the rate of eight percent each year, or about 100 elephants per day, says the African Wildlife Foundation. The African Wildlife Foundation is one of many groups educating the public and taking steps to save the African elephant from this fate.
Some Ways You Can Protect the African Elephant
The first step is to learn as much as you can about this creature and its habitat. The low birth rate means the elephant can’t keep up with the numbers being killed. Eventually this animal will become extinct.
Reduce the demand for ivory by not purchasing anything you suspect is made of or contains African elephant ivory. If people stopped buying ivory, the demand would go away as well as the poachers.
Donate to organizations that purchase land for the elephants. Several organizations are creating safe regions in Africa where the elephant can roam freely. These spaces are protected from being developed by people for their own uses.
Support the training of elephant scouts and caretakers. There programs train people to monitor the elephants and to help communities and farmers to live in harmony with the elephant and not see it as a pest.
Buy only elephant-friendly products. Some coffee and wood products come from the same regions in which the elephant roams. Demand for these products means a destruction of the elephant’s natural habitat. Like the demand for ivory, a reduction in the demand for these other products will save the elephants forests and plains.