Elephant Ivory Conservation
Wild populations of both Asian and African elephants are slowly becoming endangered. With local residents engaging in the destruction of herds that unintentionally invade their settlements and the consumer market demanding more ivory products, the turnout of events isn’t really that shocking.
Humans have been said to be the only significant threat to the existence of adult elephants. As such, efforts have been directed to elephant conservation. These efforts include research to determine elephant behaviour in specific areas, census counts to monitor the surviving wild elephants, and pushing through of movements that will encourage locals to protect the wild elephants instead of destroy them.
Overhunting and Ivory Trading
Two human activities threatening the existence of wild elephants are overhunting and ivory trading, although these two may actually be relative. Poaching or illegal hunting have been increasing due to the favorable feedback of ivory sales, which also is due to the increasing consumer demand for ivory.
Uses of Ivory
Ivory is a hard, white-colored material derived from the teeth and tusks of animals. It is mainly used either in manufacturing or art.
In the ancient times, ivory use was limited only to the creation of ivory carvings, false teeth, dominoes and fans. As time progressed, its use became more ornamental and even practical. Before plastic was introduced, piano keys, billiard balls, buttons, Scottish bagpipes and many other ornamental items were created from ivory.
Nowadays though, the material is being used to produce large quantities of high quality artworks, religious objects, even decorative containers for expensive materials. It is also being carved into seals or stamps government officials can use to sign important documents or decrees. In countries like the Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia, ivory is being used to make dagger handles.
Generally, ivory usage has moved towards the mass production of jewellery and souvenirs, causing elephant populations to rapidly decline.
The Main Issue
At the beginning of the 21st century, what immediately became the main issue in wildlife conservation was the limited land available for the natural roaming behaviour of elephants. Because elephants take in massive amounts of food daily, they require a large range habitat. But with natural predators, lions and tigers preying on the young, and humans after the fully grown adults, not only is their roaming capacity reduced but more importantly, their population results to be greatly cut off.
The Significance of Conservation Efforts
Elephant ivory conservation is important to all environmental groups mainly because elephants are also very important for maintaining the biodiversity in the ecosystem. They create gaps within canopies of forests, resulting to the regeneration of tree species, and they also play an important role in the germination of certain plant species that have developed an elephant-dependent seed system. As estimated, about one-third of the total number of trees growing in African forests is depending on elephants in terms of seed distribution.
Asian elephants (scientific name: Elephas Maximus) can live to a maximum of 65 years when left in the wild. They are mainly preyed on by tigers and lions. Although they are smaller in size, they can live much longer than African elephants (scientific name: Loxodonta Africana) which only get to live approximately 50 years.
Elephants are generally social animals. They survive in social communities, which mostly are based around females. Matriarchs guide families of around 9 to 11 related elephants. This shall include females and only immature males. After males reach full maturity, they leave their herd and start to roam on their own.
Because they are social creatures, elephants display gestures, the most common of which is the intertwining of their trunks. They show concern if they see any clan member weakened or injured. Elephants have also been seen to demonstrate grief behaviours every time a member of their clan dies.