Nature’s greatest masterpiece
Have you ever wondered who this greatest masterpiece is? Well, I am someone who is about 100 times heavier than you. I guess now you might have a slight idea about who I am. That’s right. I am commonly referred to as the Asian Elephant. According to the scientific nomenclature, we are named the Elephas maximus. Based on the taxonomy we belong to the order Proboscidea, Family Elephantidae, and the Genus Elephas. My relatives are particularly dispensed in the woodland or grassy regions of Asian counties including India, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, and Sri Lanka. Some of our relatives are confined to the African continent and they are identified as African Elephants.
However, we differ from those in Africa by the shape of our ears. It is also a pretty thrilling fact, that their ears are shaped like the African continent, while our ears take the shape of the Asian continent.
Being named the Earth’s biggest land animal makes us feel notably special, nevertheless, we also have many different special traits that set us aside from the rest of terrestrial creatures.
We are also taken into consideration as one of the smartest animals on the planet. I bet this trait of us would make you a tad bit jealous. The reason behind this trait in us is due to the dense temporal lobe of our brain, which makes us the creatures who “never forget”.
We do value equality a lot. Thus, our herds are led by the oldest female in the group, while all-female elephant facilitates to enhance the younger. The male elephants leave the herd on reaching puberty and they survive as solitary elephants.
Wanna know another fun fact about us? Unlike you, who is reading about us right at this moment, we can communicate with each other by means of seismic waves, which could be detected by our bones.
However, it is quite a devastating reality that at present my own family has declined significantly. Because of this, we have been named an Endangered species by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Therefore, the best way you can show your love and care for us is by taking measures to protect us, for we too are a part of mother nature. If not, we would be gone too soon, and your children may only see us again in the photographs you took of us when you came to visit us.
WE ARE IN TROUBLE, AND IT IS YOU, WHO CAN SAVE US!
Well, having read about the Asian Elephants and the plight faced by them at present now it’s high time to find out the reasons behind this tragedy, the threats faced by them, and most importantly the steps that could be taken to ensure their survival and conservation.
Threats faced by them
Based on the statistical data obtained by the IUCN, the elephant population has declined by 50% on average over the past 75 years, and sadly only about 20,000-40,000 Asian elephants are left in the wild at present. It is also a very unfortunate situation that out of the remaining Asian elephants, one-third of them live in captivity.
The greatest threats to Asian elephants are habitat loss, fragmentation, and illegal poaching.
With the rise in the human population, human beings tend to fulfill their numerous needs by going against nature’s will. This leads to the clearance of land and deforestation, which thereby causes the loss of the habitats belonging to the wildlife and confinement of them into less-accessible habitats. The continuation of such activities results in deleterious effects including the decline and fragmentation of the elephant population. Fragmentation divides the massive elephant herds into smaller herds which are regularly too small to keep their survival.
In addition to that, the clearance of land often results in food shortage in wildlife including the Asian elephants which lead to one of the major crises confronted by the people, especially in the rural areas. Can you guess what that is? I bet you guessed it right. Yes, it is indeed the “Human-Elephant conflict” which is probably the greatest socio-economic hassle faced by many in rural areas. This crisis causes the destruction of crops, properties as well as tragic incidents to humans. On the other hand, the precautions that have been taken by man to minimize these conflicts such as using electric fences to deter them from causing damage had resulted in injuries and death to the elephants. Consequently, this has affected the elephant population in great.
Apart from that, the illegal poaching of Asian elephants for their ivory is also another major cause that leads to the decline in the elephant population. Moreover, the illegal killing of them to obtain their skin for the construction of various products and trafficking of the young elephants for entertainment and tourism purposes too have a direct effect on elephants going into endangerment.
These acts have continued for years leading to the current disastrous situation, which is the decline of these creatures at an unprecedented rate, leading to the endangerment of these creatures, who truly are symbols of strength and power.
What can we do to help them?
Without urgent action to save their species, elephants could disappear from the wild within a single generation.-George Grey
The best way to protect Asian elephants is through conservation. Right conservation is the provision of a safer habitat for the survival of the elephants with minimal human intervention, with an optimum supply of food, water, and chances of breeding.
In order to minimize the loss of the elephants due to the “Human-Elephant conflict”, encouraging selective logging in which the forest remains intact as their habitat would be an ideal choice. Preserving their habitats, by such means will prevent them from succumbing to extinction. Besides, if farmers are persuaded to grow crops that are not consumed by elephants or habitat enrichment in the forest areas used by elephants too can be desirable solutions for this conflict.
Talking about a country’s economy, tourism and entertainment industries play a key role in a country’s economic system. Therefore, it is quite impractical to release the elephants in captivity yet we must be privy to the plight faced by the elephants held in captivity. Hence, confinement of the elephants in secure, elephant-friendly areas with the supply of proper nourishment and freedom to roam freely in a manner that successful breeding is ensured, we might be able to contribute to its existence.
As per the saying “the world doesn’t need an elephant tusk but an elephant” by Thomas Schmidt, at the end of the day it is not the materialistic things that we value. Therefore, stand against ivory-based products. SAY NO to ivory-based products.
Furthermore, the encouragement of competent authorities for the implementation of laws against illegal poaching and ivory trafficking is much needed. Nonetheless, the implementation of laws would not be the best and ideal solution for this issue. Consequently, why not spread awareness among people that might create an attitude and behavioral change towards wild existence?
However, there can be instances where the elephants can’t find gainful employment, during such situations it would be ideal to reintroduce them into the wild because they would love to go back to their own home.
As responsible citizens, it is our utmost duty and responsibility to ensure that we encourage and aid conservation. Last but not least, we must support and join hands with organizations that work towards saving elephants.
Together let’s take the first step to save these magnificent, sensitive social beings symbolizing strength and power from going into extinction because they are crying for our help.
Start now. You are never too late.
By Rtr. Piyumali Samarakoon