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by Aleena Habib September 22, 2022 4 min read

Happy Elephant Appreciation Day!

Elephants are social, charismatic, and kind-natured beings. On this special day, we have the chance to learn more about elephants and celebrate everything that makes them so amazing.

The sombering fact is that these beloved animals are on the brink of extinction. In the last century, illegal poaching in pursuit of ivory has tragically decimated elephant populations by millions. Along with poaching, habitat loss and human conflict are the main drivers of elephant population loss.

Every day, Elephant lovers, activists, and scientists worldwide are battling for elephant survival and their freedom from captivity. Today, we will discuss some incredible things about elephants. We will also explore ways to show our appreciation for them by taking personal responsibility for the choices we make that affect their lives.

Elephant eye

Five Incredible Things About Elephants…

Their size!

Elephants are the largest living land mammal. They exist in Asia and Africa. The Asian Elephant can weigh up to 8,800 pounds, while the African Elephant can weigh up to 16,000 pounds.

Did you know that elephants are known as ecosystem engineers? They use their large bodies and strength to alter their habitats.

They modify their ecosystems through various behaviors, such as pushing over trees to feed on high branches. These trees decompose on the ground, creating perfect habitats for other organisms.

Their social lives!

Elephants form matriarchal family units, where the oldest female calls the shots. Each herd includes 6-12 members, consisting of sisters, daughters, and offspring. Male offspring will stay until they are around 16 years old, then wander off to find a new herd.

Herds sometimes come together during dry seasons and create groups of up to 100 members. During this time, they share valuable resources, such as food and water, mate, and protect one another.

Asian elephant family bathing

Their hearing and senses!

Did you know that elephants can hear each other from over a mile away? Elephants produce infrasonic calls, frequencies so low that they are undetectable by human ears.

Infrasounds travel well through their habitats and allow them to communicate over far distances, even in dense forests.

Wait, there's more! Elephants can also communicate through the ground by producing a low-frequency rumble or by stomping their feet. These communication methods create seismic waves which other elephants can feel through their extremely sensitive trunks and feet up to 20 miles away!

Sadly, urbanization and the introduction of human noise pollution to their environments can decrease the effectiveness of their communication.

Their appetites!

Elephants spend around 80% of their day eating! They can eat anywhere from 200 to 600 pounds of vegetation and drink up to 50 gallons of water in one day! Their food consumption amounts to over 70,000 calories a day.

As large herbivores, they need to know where to find the best tree bark, leaves, twigs, bushes, roots, fruit, and other vegetation to satisfy their giant appetites.

Their emotions!

Elephants are one of the most emotionally expressive creatures on Earth. Elephants show anger, happiness, grief, fear, and many other emotions.

Elephants entwining trunks

Elephants are known to grieve the loss of their loved ones, similar to the way we grieve our own. They have been observed with tears streaming down their eyes while visiting their family members' deceased bodies.

Elephants are also extremely empathetic and loyal beings. They are well known for their commitment to one another, and their bonds that last a lifetime.

Elephants show excitement and joy by enthusiastically bellowing, playing in water and dirt, and running around with their family members.

These emotions demonstrate the social lives of elephants and provide more reasons to protect their habitats and ensure their survival.       

How We Can Help Elephants

Buy Ethically Sourced Coffee

Have you ever wondered where your morning pick-me-up comes from or who is impacted in the process of sourcing it?

One common cause of elephant habitat loss is deforestation for agricultural purposes, such as logging and coffee farming. Humans often injure elephants to deter them from roaming around coffee plantations around their habitats.

If you're a coffee addict and animal lover like me, don’t fret! You can choose environmentally friendly options, such as Fair-Trade certified coffee, and avoid unethically sourced products.

Learn more about ethical coffee sources here:https://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/a-guide-buying-ethical-coffee-180956743/

Engage in Responsible Tourism

Approximately 15,000-20,000 elephants are captive worldwide. This tragedy primarily impacts the Asian elephant. Asian elephants have a long history of being used for tourist entertainment.

Captive elephants used for entertainment live miserable lives and endure cruel torture until they are tame enough to be around humans. They live their lives away from their natural habitats and conspecifics in abysmal conditions.

To end the captivity of elephants, we must avoid contributing to the exploitative relationship that people have with them. One way to help end elephant captivity is to say "No" to unethical tourist attractions where elephants are ridden or used for photo props. 

Elephant foot in chains

Learn more about responsible tourism here:  https://www.responsiblevacation.com/vacations/elephant-conservation/travel-guide/elephant-sanctuaries-which-we-do-and-dont-support

Avoid unsustainable palm oil

Palm oil is one of the most versatile and commonly used oils. Unfortunately, harvesting palm oil destroys some of the world's most biodiverse forests and decimates populations of the animal species within them.

Elephants often fall victim to the dangers and tragic losses that come with palm oil harvest. One way to help elephants, and many other animals, is to ensure you are using sustainably sourced palm oil.

Living life free from unsustainable palm oil can be difficult, mainly because palm oil is found in nearly 50% of all packaged items. That statistic can be shocking, but don’t lose hope.

Many tools exist to help you find foods that don’t hurt wildlife, such as the PalmOil Scan App. Apps like these make shopping ethically and confidently a breeze.

Learn more about ways to avoid unsustainable palm oil here:  https://www.cmzoo.org/conservation/orangutans-palm-oil/palm-oil-scan-mobile-app/

And here: https://www.wwf.org.uk/updates/palm-your-hands-shopping-sustainably

Don't buy Ivory

Each year, humans kill approximately thirty thousand elephants for their tusks. It is essential to avoid the purchase of any ivory product. The purchase of ivory products increases the demand for ivory, further endangering elephants.

Learn more about the Ivory Trade here:  https://www.worldwildlife.org/magazine/issues/winter-2018/articles/why-do-people-buy-elephant-ivory

Today, and every day, let us appreciate these awe-inspiring beings. Every day we make progress toward saving elephants, but we still have a lot of important work to do.

You have the power to help save Elephants in the choice you make both at home and abroad.  And let's not forget - sharing is caring.  Make sure to let your family and friends know all the ways they can have a positive impact on the future survival of Elephants.

Young Asian Elephants at play

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