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Loxodonta Africana
“This much is certain: the richest wildlife communities in Africa are found neither in pure woodlands nor in
pure savannas, but in areas where the two general types of habitat meet and become interspersed with each
other. Elephants are one of the most important agents influencing the dynamics of that mixture, and their
activities generally increase the overall biological diversity of a region. Conserving elephants, then, becomes
much morethan an issue about how to protect a single great species. It is about protecting one of the forces
that shapes ecosystems and helps sustain the wealth of wildlife found across much of the continent. It is
about saving the creative power of nature.”   ~Douglas Chadwick
There once was a time that the African elephant roamed most all of the African Continent. It was estimated that
around 7-10 million elephants existed in the 1930’s. Today that number is a shocking 300,000 individuals and
still declining at a rapid pace. Demand for ivory, combined with habitat loss from human settlement, has led to
a dramatic decline in elephant populations.
Why We Need Elephants:
Many people don’t understand the vital role that Elephants play in the
elicate dance preformed throughout the African ecosystems. Elephants are
considered a keystone species in the African landscape. That means
elephants play a key role in maintaining the balance of all other species in
the community. They pull down trees and break up thorny bushes, which help
to create grasslands for other animals to survive. They create salt licks that
are rich in nutrients for other animals. They dig waterholes in dry river beds
that other animals can use as a water source, and their foot prints create
deep holes that water can collect in. They create trails that act as fire
breakers and water run offs.  Other animals, including humans,
depend on the openings elephants create in the forest and brush and in the waterholes they dig. Elephant dung
(droppings) is important to the environment as well. Baboons and birds pick through dung for undigested seeds
and nuts, and dung beetles reproduce in these deposits. The nutrient-rich manure replenishes depleted soils so
that humans can have a nutrient rich soil to plant crops in. Elephant Droppings are also a vehicle for seed
dispersal. Some seeds will not germinate unless they have passed through an elephant's digestive system.
The Problem:
Elephants need a large amount of habitat to live in. Humans have become
their direct competitors for living space. Human populations in Africa
quadrupled since the turn of the century, one of the fastest growth rates on
the planet. Forest and savanna habitat has been converted to cropland,
pastureland for livestock, and timber for housing and fuel.  We are taught
to fear that which we do not understand, and when we fear something we
often cope by elimination. The closer humans live to elephants the more
we fear them. Elephants raid crops sometimes destroying a family’s food
supply for an entire year. During the breeding season, aggressive male
elephants rampage through villages tearing
down homes and destroying crops in the process. Because humans fear them and regard them as pests, locals
will shoot the elephants to eliminate the problem. SOS Elephants hopes to teach these local communities that
we can coexist with elephants and all wildlife thru different farming techniques and thru eco tourism. With these
techniques the local communities will thrive.
The Ivory Wars:
Habitat destruction is not the only threat to the African Elephant.  Poaching
is the illegal taking of wild plants and animals or parts of the plants or
animals.  It is estimated that 30,000 to 38,000 elephants are poached every
year for their Ivory.  With statistics like this the African elephant is doomed
for extinction in 15-20 years, unless we can put a stop to these illegal
activities thru education and alternative recourses for income in communities
that assist in the ivory trade.  Ivory has become more valuable than gold. In
fact, ivory has been called "white gold".  The tusks of one elephant bring in
the same amount of money 12 or more years of farming or herding.
The problem is that the local communities see very little of this money. It is the middle men and the investors
from other countries that see these profits. The Ivory trade is not only depleting the Elephant populations, but it
is depleting the chances these local populations have to make a living thru ecotourism. Once the large keystone
species are gone the ecotourism is gone as well.  So what can we do?  SOS elephants believes the key is
education.  Our goal is to teach the local communities about the importance of Elephants, and how they can
turn the tables on poachers thru ecotourism and coexisting farming techniques.
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