Herd of African elephants in Amboseli National Park, Kenya
© Susan Portnoy/Shutterstoc
Family on parade. World Elephant Day
Today is World Elephant Day, when we focus on these remarkable creatures and pledge to protect them. African elephants, like those shown here, are the largest living land animals, with bull elephants standing a whopping 13 feet tall at the shoulder. Their distinctive trunks and big, flapping ears make them one of the first animals every child can recognize. Adults marvel at the close family bonds they create and the way a herd rallies to protect its members, grieving when one dies. They form a strong, social community over their life span of about 60 to 75 years.
Sadly, elephants attract negative attention too. Around 100 of the massive African elephants are killed by poachers every day, their tusks stolen for the lucrative and illegal ivory trade. In fact, the most recent comprehensive census of African elephants shows their populations decreased by 62% between 2002 and 2011, and they have lost 30% of their geographical range, according to the World Wildlife Fund. And this decline continues—it's feared that elephants could be headed to extinction by the end of the next decade. Wildlife biologist Dr. Jane Goodall has studied and written about elephants: 'I have spent hours and hours watching elephants,' she says, 'and come to understand what emotional creatures they are…. It's not just a species facing extinction, it's massive individual suffering.'
The elephant family pictured here lives in Amboseli National Park in Kenya, home to more than 1,500 African elephants. The park is also home to the Amboseli Elephant Research Project, which has studied, observed, and protected African elephants for 50 years. This World Elephant Day, let's all find a way to help these majestic beasts and guarantee them a safe, happy future in the wild.