What if you knew that elephants are the breath of life and natural air purifiers? What would you be willing to do to save them?
The basic nature of elephants is to move across vast areas for nearly eighteen hours a day, consuming up to 375 pounds of vegetation, including roots, berries, leaves, barks and seeds. Depending on the amount and type of fodder ingested, an elephant can defecate up to 300 pounds of dung per day, while dispersing seeds on the forest beds. Seeds sprout into trees. Trees give us oxygen to breathe and absorb large amounts of carbon dioxide that humans release into the atmosphere.
When you really think about it, elephants are actually a life giving source. They indirectly are the breath of life, and natural air purifiers, as they promote tree growth.
Elephants are a keystone species. The survival of many species in the forest ecosystems depends on the survival of elephants. As the largest living land mammal, they can trample over dense shrubs and bushes, creating pathways to waterholes and fodder that otherwise would be inaccessible to other species. Just pause and think for a moment how vitally important these interconnections are for the tapestry of life to thrive.
These intrinsic values of elephants have been grossly undermined by the Homo sapiens. Instant gratification and arrogance are preventing humans from understanding these ecological realities. Their insatiable drive for material wealth, status, and the cheap thrills derived from trophy hunting, is decimating African elephants that are being ruthlessly butchered in the guise of conservation and cultural artifacts.
Many elephants are also being abducted from their home, ripped apart from their families, and exploited for profit in circuses, zoos, and even cancer research. Asian elephants, especially bulls, are being slaughtered for ivory and captured illegally for cultural festivals across Asia.
A wave of genocide is unfolding in Asia and Africa. According to the animal and wildlife conservation charity, Defenders of Wildlife, "At the turn of the 20th century there were a few million African elephants and about 100,000 Asian elephants. Today, there are an estimated 450,000 - 700,000 African elephants and between 35,000 - 40,000 wild Asian elephants."
A national census conducted in India also shows a steep decline of Asian elephants. There are now only 27,300 of them, compared to 30,000 in 2012. But still, India houses approximately 60% of the global Asian elephant population. India also has around 4,000 captive elephants, most elephants in Kerala being bulls. Therefore, it is imperative to rehabilitate captive elephants and relocate the recovered bulls in the wild.
Coincidentally, India also happens to be one of the most polluted countries on the planet. And given that elephants promote tree density in the forests, it would make sense to release more elephants into the wild, as it could potentially aid in reducing pollution. Whereas in captivity, the nutritional needs of the elephants are unmet, their dung is wasted, and they cannot propagate trees. What a sheer waste of their intrinsic values that would otherswise serve the forest ecosystems.
There are good reasons for the global community to get involved. It is a known fact that the atmosphere is an open sink. What this means is, unlike nations that are defined by borders, the open space called atmosphere is borderless. If you lived in North America or Europe and think that extinction of elephants would not have a direct impact on you, think again. There is no way to stop air pollutants and green house gases from crossing over continents. It is worth repeating that indirectly, elephants are natural air purifiers, as they promote tree growth.
Less than a decade ago most people around the world thought that they were immune to climate change. For a long time intense hurricanes, storm surges and tsunamis that took place in the far off distance were ignored. But when these climatic catastrophes began to knock on their door steps, the global citizens began to acknowledge that climate change is real.
Similarly, the loss of a keystone species could have unimaginable consequences on the entire planet and therefore the global community should pay attention to the genocide of elephants unfolding in Asia and Africa. By sacrificing their lives, these vulnerable animals are issuing a clarion call to the global leaders and international bodies, reminding them that the demise of their species could return to haunt humans.
It's time to deal with this global calamity, by dispatching all resources, including knowledge, finances and even military if necessary, to protect these iconic species. The time to act decisively is now, lest, our children and grandchildren would be left to face the devastating consequences of a polluted planet, impoverished in biodiversity, all caused by irresponsible actions or inactions of our generation.