Elephants are earth’s largest land mammals. African elephants have larger ears than smaller Asian elephants (their ears are actually shaped like the continents they live in). But all live in large female-led family units with mothers, aunties and cute furry little elephants (Asian elephants still live in social female groups, but there is no matriarch). The males (bulls) tend to mate and then live alone for the rest of the time. Elephants have very strong family units. If an elephant dies, the rest of the family will mourn, just like with humans, often for months.
Elephants are amazing, and yet are severely endangered. Although poaching is illegal, trophy hunting continues and elephants are also at great risk from loss of habitat (and therefore food) and people who shoot them, when they try to eat crops of local villagers (one village has installed beehives, using elephants’ natural fear of bees to ironically keep them safe, by deterring them).
Others live miserable lives in zoos and circuses worldwide, when in reality they roam hundreds of miles in matriarchal herds (apart from bull elephants, who tend to roam alone, apart from mating). Earth’s amazing largest land mammals need our help urgently.
Conservationist Lawrence Anthony managed to gain trust of rogue elephants (who hated humans and were about to be shot) and rehabilitated them to the wild. On his death, two herds (who had not visited for 18 months) arrived at his house (a 12-hour journey) and roamed the grounds for 2 days, before returning to the bush.
Elephants live up to 70 years in the wild, and spend most of their time eating (the equivalent of 375 cans of baked beans a day!) Their trunks are not ‘noses’ but more like tongues, which baby elephants have to learn how to use, without tripping over them! They talk in low vibrations and ‘mourn the bones’ of dead elephant friends. Is it true that an elephant never forgets? It does have a large temporal lobe, but poor eyesight means elephants likely remember from smell.
How to Help The Elephants
- Use your vote to elect people serious about global warming. If you don’t vote Green, then at least vote for MPs who don’t vote to stop progressive policies on climate change, logging, fracking etc.
- Reduce your personal carbon footprint to help stop climate change. This is the most helpful long-term way to protect elephant habitats.
- Switch to a green energy company (it only takes 10 minutes). There are quite a few green energy companies now in the UK, and they are as affordable as the big corporate companies.
- Elephants should not be in zoos. They are miserable and often too hot. Boycott zoos and donate to a elephant charity instead. You can report concerns of any animals in zoos (or circuses) to Freedom for Animals & Born Free (also take pictures and tell the local police, tour operator & local animal welfare charity).
- Responsible Travel has a list of ‘elephant sanctuaries’ to be wary of, as they are more like glorified zoos.
- Avoid antique ivory (it just encourages illegal markets). You can buy jewellery made from tagua nuts (‘vegetable ivory’).
- Elephant Gin uses profits to help elephant charities.
- You can now even find elephant-friendly tea!
- This greetings card saves elephants, as it’s made by blending recycled paper with elephant dung, which is collected by local villagers, who then make money by looking after elephants that eat crops, instead of harming them. Paper High also sells elephant dung stationary gifts (be careful as some companies use leather notebooks, and others use the money to support zoos, rather than elephant sanctuaries).
Excellent Books about Elephants
- The Last Giants tells the story of why elephants are so endangered
- Elephants by Tom Jackson is a beautiful photographic anthology
- When An Elephant Falls in Love is a lovely children’s story from Italy
- The Elephant is a beautiful children’s book, to educate and inspire
- An Elephant In My Kitchen is a story by Françoise Malby-Anthony, who after the death of conservationist Lawrence Anthony (above) had to continue the sanctuary alone. Dealing with personal grief and poachers, to top it all: the herd’s feisty matriarch didn’t like her (at first!) But she trundled on and ended up caring for a lost baby elephant who turned up at her house, offering refuge to orphaned rhinos and a hippo who was scared of water!
Donate to an Elephant Sanctuary
- Action for Elephants UK lists small effective charities. Register with Everyclick, then sponsors donate, every time you search the web.
- Boon Lott (Thailand) was set up by a Londoner, to help a baby disabled elephant. Katherine married a local – she had elephant bridesmaids, who smothering her dress with mud from their trunks!
- Elephant Nature Park is sanctuary known for its devotion and care. Tiny Treats is a lovely e-book of wholefood vegan desserts (keep sweet foods away from pets). Profits help the sanctuary.
No-one needs an elephant tusk, but an elephant. Thomas Schmidt