Understanding Elephants

By Veronica

Elephants have been endangered and abused for more than 4,000 years. Elephants are an extremely important part of the ecosystem. They may not be a part of your life, but they are a huge part of the environment and other animals. There may be people who help elephants and try to make a difference, but there are also a lot of people who put elephants in bad captivity. Elephants are amazing and elegant creatures that we need to save. Humans need to help elephants and stop putting them in captivity, abusing them, and destroying their habitat. 

We need elephants on the earth, they too contribute to our ecosystem. For example, they are the world’s largest herbivores and are very good seed transporters. If they eat a fruit, then they have to poop it out and the seeds in the poop spread. That is how we have so many fruit trees now. It might be gross to us but their dung is also great food for a lot of insects. Elephants also dig waterholes, this benefits other animals a lot and helps them. Elephants are the biggest mammals on Earth so there’s not much that can get in their way. When they travel they make paths for other small animals who have a much harder time going though brushes and large grasses. When elephants trudge through tall grasses they allow the sun to help plants grow on the forest floor. But elephants’ contributions don’t stop there. In an  article by 4elephants.org, the author sheds light on elephants’ climate change impact through helping forests store more carbon. “Elephants stomp their way around forests stepping on small trees that could become a competition to larger trees. By eliminating smaller trees, larger trees can continue to grow in diameter and total biomass. These types of  trees tend to live for extended periods and can store large amounts of carbon.” Based on this information elephants are crucial to their habitat, but our habitat on this planet.

Endangerment is a big issue for elephants. They have been on the endangered list for 23 years now. 90% of african elephants have been wiped out in the last century from loss of habit, poaching, and many other reasons. Elephants’ habitat is affected by humans. According to an article by Treehugger, “Their habitats are increasingly shrunken and fragmented by agriculture, logging, roads, and development for residential or commercial use. Elephants are migratory animals who depend on large, contiguous territories, and this trend robs them of vital resources like food and water.” Land and habitat are being taken away from them as well as food and water. It’s estimated that elephants could become extinct in 20 years. In the 19th century there were about 3-5 million elephants in the wild. Now in the 20th century there are about 400,000 left in the wild. Climate change is one of the biggest threats that elephants and many other animals face. There are many reasons that elephants are dying; such as loss of habit, starvation, pollution, and rising sea levels. That’s why we need to act now. We need to start helping them instead of killing them, because a world without elephants would be devastating.

A reason that elephants are taken from the wild is to be put in captivity. There are two different kinds of captivity, good captivity and bad captivity. People capture elephants from the wild, and force them to race each other and perform in circus acts. Elephants are chained up and put in small cages where they eat, drink, and sleep. The only time they are free from the cage is to perform circus tricks which is not much better than being in a cage. Humans often use physical punishment to train and control them. Good captivity is when someone cares for an elephant if they are hurt, then releases them back in the wild once they are able to fend for themselves. The website elephantvoices.org states that elephants don’t do well in captivity. “Historically, elephants have never bred well in captivity and, consequently, a continuous supply of elephants captured from the wild was needed to maintain or increase the captive stocks.” Breeding in captivity and captivity for human gain has never benefited elephants and never will.

Elephants feel lots of emotions like humans. They can feel joy, love, grief, stress, anger, and compassion for others. When elephants are happy or joyful they flap their ears, widen their eyes and wag their tail. If an elephant’s tail becomes stiff they are feeling anxious or scared. If they are feeling love for another elephant they flap their ears and intertwine their tusks with one another. Elephants are very intelligent and they can sense when another elephant is feeling any of these emotions. According to an article by 4elephants.org, elephants are top on the list for most intelligent animals. “Elephants are considered to be one of the most intelligent animals. African and Asian elephants have large and well-developed brains. Their large brains have around three billion neurons, which is three times more than humans. They are some of the few animals who can recognize themselves in mirrors. Elephants show their emotional intelligence through the sense of touch.” Elephants’ emotional intelligence is incredible and even more complicated than humans.

If humans continue to destroy elephants’ habitat, put them in captivity, and abuse them, there will be negative consequences for us and them. The destruction of habitat has worsened their endangerment, which is affecting the ecosystem. People think putting elephants in captivity is preserving their numbers when it is not helping them. They don’t breed well in captivity and they are mentally suffering as well. You can do small things to help elephants and other animals.  Some ideas are: do not support businesses that threaten endangered species, donate money to groups that help care for elephants, research and learn about endangered species. You may think your part is small, but if more and more people do this then the effect is more powerful. 

Works Cited

McLendo, Russell. “Why elephants are under threat.” June 18 2020,https://www.treehugger.com/are-elephants-endangered-5025729

Morfeld, Dr. Kari. “African elephants impact on the environment blog.” October 9 2019, https://www.4elephants.org/blog/article/african-elephants-impact-on-the-environment

Lindsay, Dr. Keith. “ What would happen if there were no elephants.” February 22 2019, https://africanelephantjournal.com/what-would-happen-if-there-were-no-elephants/

Elephant voices.


“Elephants emotions.” October 11 2010, https://www.pbs.org/wnet/nature/echo-an-elephant-to-remember-elephant-emotions/4489/