Learn more about majestic elephants—including the forces that threaten their existence—with Sangita Iyer, the award-winning journalist and biologist who founded Voice for Asian Elephants Society.
World Elephant Day is celebrated around the world on Aug. 12. Here are six elephant facts to inspire you from Sangita Iyer, the founder of Voice for Asian Elephants Society:
1. Elephants are the largest living land animal.
These massive mammals have the unique power and dexterity to trample across forests and create pathways that lead to waterholes and fodder, helping other animals to sustain themselves.
2. Each elephant excretes some 300 pounds of poo every day.
After consuming some 150-200 varieties of berries, bark, leaves, roots, and foliage, elephants wander across vast areas and disperse seeds in their poo on the forest floor. Seeds become trees; trees absorb carbon dioxide and emit oxygen, which means elephant poo eventually acts as a natural air purifier for humans!
3. Elephants are nicknamed “gardeners of the planet.”
Elephants, as natural fertilizers and path makers, are necessary for the survival of forest ecosystems. No wonder they are called a keystone species and “gardeners of the planet.”
4. Elephants around the world are in peril.
They’re being slaughtered at an unprecedented rate, their body parts sold for millions of dollars, driven by illegal wildlife trade. Their tusks, made of ivory, are considered white gold. Aside from carving out cultural artifacts, they are also used to make chopsticks in China based on a superstitious belief that ivory can detect food poisoning. In India, elephant hair is embedded in gold jewelry and sold at hefty prices based on a misguided belief that it provides strength and resilience.
5. The elephant population is dwindling—at an alarming rate.
At the turn of the 20th century, there were a few million African elephants and about 100,000 Asian elephants. But today, an elephant is slaughtered every 15 minutes in Africa. The final results from the Great Elephant Census show that there are 352,271 African savanna elephants distributed across 18 countries, a 30% decline in seven years.
6. There are between 35,000-40,000 wild Asian elephants, nearly 65% of them wandering in Indian jungles.
The survival of these majestic animals depends on you. On World Elephant Day, make a pledge to do something. Help spread the word, volunteer, or make a donation.
Featured Photo: Help Care for Rescued Animals in Cambodia by Wildlife Alliance