Learn about the role and importance of elephants in the ecosystem. 

Updated: African elephants’ role in Africa’s ecosystem

One of Africa’s big five animals is the elephant. Animals under this list are considered to be the most difficult to hunt. This term dates back to colonial times. Now it is used to describe the animals that bring in tourists to visit Africa. 

What many people do not know is the role and importance of elephants in the ecosystem. That is why our elephant research team wants to share just what job elephants do to keep the ecosystems in Africa healthy.

What is an ecosystem? 

An ecosystem is the community of living organisms and nonliving things in their surroundings. Each ecosystem in a region, state or country can be 100 percent different from other ecosystems in the area and their biomes. In an ecosystem, each animal, person, or organism plays a key role in keeping the biomes healthy and safe for everyone and everything. 

A great example is a lake. A lake has several animals that inhabit that ecosystem that include, but are not limited to:  

  • Frogs

  • Fish

  • Plants

  • Snails

  • Sun

  • Weeds

  • Tadpoles

  • Bacteria

All of these plants, animals, and organisms need to live to keep the ecosystem in balance cohesively. When a stranger comes into the ecosystem, such as an invasive species, this can negatively affect the ecosystem, destroying or harming the entire ecosystem.

Africa’s ecosystems 

Africa has one of the most diverse ecosystems. Within the continent, there are five main ecosystems: deserts, mountains, savannas, forest and coastal environments. The famous African elephants can be found living in the savannas and forests. 

African savannas are huge grassland areas with several trees. This area is usually dry all year round but can experience rain during the wet seasons. Some animals that live in this ecosystem are elephants, rhinos, zebras and lions, just to name a few. 

Africa’s rainforests have tall trees and see rainfall all year round. These forests are lush, wet and under threat of being lost due to deforestation. Some of Africa’s rainforest animals include African forest elephants, gorillas, okapi and chimpanzees. 

The role and importance of elephants in the ecosystem

Just as big as elephants are in size, so is their role in balancing their ecosystems. From the wet rainforests to the grassy savannas, African elephants are the gardeners and landscapers of Africa.

Elephants are gardeners thanks to their ability to distribute seeds across their environments. Their dung that gets dropped along their long journey is fertile and contains seeds. Through their droppings, they help distribute seeds and increase plant biodiversity. 

Also, elephants are landscapers. These large mammals use their strength to knock down trees and create watering holes. Elephants knock down trees to reach vegetation or to create a path. Those trees that get knocked down provide homes and food for smaller animals. Elephants also create watering holes when they dig for water. 

Want to support elephant research? 

As one can tell, elephants play a vital role in Africa's ecosystems, and without these animals, the ecosystem would not be thriving. That is why at For Elephants, we are taking bold steps to ensure they do not go extinct in the wild or zoos through research. You can help us continue our work by joining our “Herd of Heroes” program, where you can make a monthly donation of your choice. Join down below!

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