Today is World Elephant Day, a day focusing on the conservation of elephants across the globe. The two main species of elephant are African elephants and Asian elephants. Both species are in danger of becoming extinct in the wild due to poaching and habitat loss.
Although many countries have banned the killing of elephants, the illegal ivory trade has skyrocketed in recent years. Decreasing the demand for ivory is essential. Never buy, sell, or wear ivory. Write to your politicians to speak out against poaching. (Americans can write a letter to the Secretary of State on the Wildlife Conservation Society website.) For information on organizations that combat the illegal ivory trade, see National Geographic’s page, Blood Ivory: How to Help.
In addition, you can help provide captive elephants with the best possibly life. Boycott circuses, whose unethical treatment includes chaining elephants up by their feet and trunks, as well as beating them frequently. Encourage zoos to create environments similar to African elephants’ native habitat. They should be able to encompass elephant families and their travel patterns, and they should be located in a warm climate so that the elephants can spend all year outside.
A recent study of zoo elephants found that the best way to promote elephant well-being in captivity is to ensure they can spend time in groups, and not be socially isolated. Human interaction was also beneficial. The study, titled Epidemiological Investigations of North American Zoo Elephant Welfare, is available online and is accessible to the public. (See journals.plos.org.)