Highly intelligent and sensitive creatures, elephants are social animals and the females live in large herds often led by the oldest female, referred to as the matriarch. She will use her years of knowledge to take care of the herd during hard times, leading them many miles beyond their usual range in search of food and water. Young females remain with the herd but young males eventually leave between the ages of 10 and 19 years old to lead solitary lives.
TRUNKS AND TUSKS
The main function of both the elephant’s trunk and tusks is helping it to feed. An elephant grazes for up to 16 hours a day and must consume upwards of 120kg/260lb of food a day. The elephant’s trunk is a fascinating appendage consisting of about 100 000 muscles. It’s used for breathing and smelling as it is actually the elephant’s nose but unlike a human nose, it is also used for drinking and grabbing things – especially food to put into its mouth. The trunk is also used to communicate through a series of trumpeting calls, 70 of which have been identified with some being heard as far as 14km/9 miles away. The elephant’s tusks are used for digging for food and water as well as stripping bark from trees. They are also used in battle, especially by male elephants.
Challenges & Solutions
As they have no natural predators, man poses the greatest threat to elephants. Although trading in ivory is illegal, the extensive poaching of elephant for ivory in the 19th century means that elephants have been in danger for over a century. There is still a demand for ivory in some parts of the world and elephant populations remain vulnerable to poachers who sell not only their tusks, but also their meat and hide. Combatting poaching is, therefore, a significant challenge in elephant conservation. The reduction of habitat available to elephants as human populations continue to expand is putting elephant populations both in Africa and Asia under pressure. Many wild elephant populations follow ancient migratory routes which stretch over huge areas and are now finding themselves cut off by towns and villages. As wild elephants come into contact with people so conflict increases resulting in more elephants being killed.
Reducing poaching by implementing anti-poaching initiatives, especially aerial patrols, is essential to conservation efforts. Reducing human-elephant conflict by teaching local communities to manage elephants, employing scouts to monitor elephant populations and alert farmers when an elephant is nearby and teaching them to implement simple methods of deterring elephant from damaging crops will prevent them from being killed as pests. The conservation of habitats to allow them room to roam is another crucial component of elephant conservation.