The goal of World Elephant Day is to create awareness of the urgent plight of African and Asian elephants, and to share knowledge and positive solutions for the better care and management of captive and wild elephants. African elephants are listed as “Vulnerable” and Asian elephants as “Endangered” on the IUCN Red List of threatened species. One conservationist has stated that both African and Asian elephants face extinction within twelve years. The current population estimates are about 400,000 for African elephants and 40,000 for Asian elephants, although it has been argued that these numbers are much too high.
The demand for ivory, which is highest in China, leads to the illegal poaching of both African and Asian elephants. For example, one of the world’s largest elephants, Satao, was recently killed for his iconic tusks. Another iconic Kenyan elephant, Mountain Bull, was also killed by poachers, and with the street value for ivory now exceeding that of gold, African elephants face a poaching epidemic. Elephants are also poached for meat, leather, and body parts, with the illegal wildlife trade putting elephants increasingly in danger, because it is perceived to be a low risk and high profit endeavour.
– Elephants eat grasses, roots, fruit and bark. They use their tusks to pull the bark from trees and dig roots out of the ground.
– A group of elephants is called a herd. The herd is led by a matriarch, which is the oldest female. Females, as well as young and old elephants, stick together in a herd. Adult males tend to wander on their own.
– Male elephants are called bulls and females are called cows. After mating, the cow will be pregnant for around 22 months. When the baby elephant is finally born, it can weigh around 200 lbs. (91 kg) and stand about 3 feet (1 m) tall.
– The African elephant can be identified by its ears. Stretched out, its ears are shaped like the African continent. Asian elephants have smaller ears, which are more rounded on top and flat along the bottom. Heat radiates out of the elephant’s massive ears, acting as a cooling mechanism.
– An elephant’s skin can be as thick as 1 inch, but it is sensitive to the sun. To protect it, elephants will cover themselves in mud or dust.