The African forests and savannas would not be the same without the elephants roaming them. Elephants that live in these two environments play an important role in balancing the natural ecosystems.
These animals spread seeds, fertilize plants, shape the landscape and even create water holes for small animals. Losing them would be damaging to the African forests and savannas. Take a look at why African elephants are one step closer to being lost forever and how to support wild elephant conservation.
The two types of African elephants
For many years, people have believed that African Savanna elephants and African forest elephants were the same species. Scientists have discovered that they are actually two distinct species. They are as different as the Asian elephant is to the African elephant.
Although they might look fairly similar, these two elephants are genetically different. Scientists discovered that somewhere around 2.6 and 5.6 million years ago, the African forest and Savanna elephant split into two different species.
These two elephants live in different habitats across Africa. The African forest elephant preliminary lives in the dense rainforests of Africa. In comparison, the African Savanna elephant roams the grasslands of central and south Africa.
They can be told apart by their physical appearance. The African forest elephants are smaller in size than the African Savanna elephants. Their tusks are also different. The tusks of African forest elephants are thinner and straighter. African Savanna elephants have thicker and more curved tusks.
The new conservation status of African elephants
In March 2021, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) announced that the African savanna elephant is endangered and the African forest elephant is critically endangered. What does this mean? It means that both of the African elephants are one step closer to becoming extinct.
Both of these elephants' conservation status has shifted. The African Savanna elephant was previously categorized as threatened, and African forest elephants were classified as endangered. However, due to circumstances, these elephants' status has not improved.
Why are African elephants at risk of extinction?
Both of the world’s African elephants are closer to being lost forever. According to the ICUN, African elephant populations have declined by more than 83 percent in a 31 year period. There are an estimated 415,000 African elephants left in the wild.
What has caused African elephant numbers to decline? Wild elephant conservation experts report that the two major causes of elephants' continued population decline are poaching and loss of habitat. Losing either or both of these elephants would be damaging to the ecosystems.
Although elephant poaching levels have decreased from 2011’s peak, poaching still continues. Experts say there is still a demand for ivory that is leading to the death of many elephants. As for habitat loss, the main contributor is agricultural land. This has led to many elephants losing their homes and wandering into human villages. It has led to an increase in human-elephant conflict.
Support wild elephant conservation!
Taking action to save the elephants is more important now than ever before. You can help save elephants from extinction by supporting nonprofit organizations - like For Elephants. We help both zoos and wild elephants through our research. You can help save the elephants by joining the “Herd of Heroes.” Do not forget to sign-up for our newsletter!