Elephants as Marvels of Nature
Text By Kiplangat Evans
I just love seeing elephants, their sheer sight, their unrivaled beauty and being the largest and most iconic of mammals on the planet is still a marvelous spectacle to me. They are also the most gentle and beautiful of mammals I have ever come across and they fuel my passion for conservation further while still giving me a sense of purpose and joy in life.
Elephants play a lot of critical roles around us. They are our unique and natural ecosystem engineers, their tusks and trunks have helped shape the natural canopies in our ecosystems, they are the agents of seed dispersal and planters of several species of trees on immense spatial scales and this is something they have done for thousands of years on the surface of the earth.
Their colossal bodies especially their complex digestive systems help break down big portions of matter in our biosphere into smaller components hence ease the shuffling of nutrients within the biosphere and hereby their massive dung boluses harbor several nutrients accessible for utilization by several other species of plant, bacterial, algal, fungal and animal species. With this information in mind, elephants are important keystone species playing several eco services on earth to stabilize ecosystems.
Uniquely, elephants are also the masters of ingenuity and engineering, acting as natural bulldozers who dig the earth to expose and integrate vital mineral components into food webs from sources below the ground. The other animals come to quench thirst and cool their bodies from the harsh heat of the day.
As the world’s impressive and charismatic land mammal they are also the ambassadors of all other species as flagship species and their presence in landscapes has been used to bring audiences into conversation, positively change their perceptions on animals, convince people in creating successful conservation programs, raising of funds for biodiversity action plans and preventing encroachments into natural ecosystems which all in the end benefit all other species.
Despite all their benefits, elephants are among the most threatened and endangered species on earth because some people poach them for their ivory and this is a real challenge. It is a challenge because these giants are worth so much more than their ivory. Seeing them survive would really take the collective effort from all of us. Having them disappear from the face of the earth would be a serious mistake, Mother Nature would forever punish us.
Elephants deserve a bright future and a space where they can roam freely in their unrivaled beauty just as us humans. It is now our task as humans to be close to these wild species and never be the cause of them vanishing. The rule of nature is to always leave nature alone but in our current situation nature is ailing from our actions and we humans are at times too selfish to realize. Through ivory poaching we are a threat not only to the large mammals. Look at the Northern white rhinos who are now functionally extinct because of our shameful carelessness and lack of concern. I hope we get the lesson right and not do the same to the elephants.
It is clearly evident from our past deeds as man that we have power in our hands to devastate the whole world but why not use that power to transform the face of the earth and preserve the diversity of life. We need to have a good plan.
A good plan will even address how we build infrastructure without crisscrossing protected areas or guide us on the points to build it with little or no effects to wildlife. Wildlife also has got way points we call corridors and we need to mark them and protect them the same way we protect our own transport infrastructure. We need to realize that wildlife are not cutting through our roads and railways in parks but it is actually us who are cutting through their habitats and with this it is a shameful monument to see elephants knocked down by traffic on their pursuit and instinct to cross over to the other side on corridors their forefathers used freely.
As humans there is an urgent need and a greater compassion upon us to use our power to preserve the natural diversity of life not just because we depend on them for food, aesthetic values, or revenue but because we still know so little about all the species involved. Most importantly we should preserve the natural diversity as well because we as humans have no moral right whatsoever to destroy other living organisms with which we share the earth with.
We ought to lead the way and give elephants a space within us and to make them more loved, wrap our lives around them, impact as many lives as possible for people to see them more clearly and make good opinions about them. We can choose to be associated with them and be their ambassadors. Tell stories about them. When we do all this with a host of other things then we can help to secure a brighter future for elephants and this is our main concern. The earth is the only place in the universe where there is life and its continual survival now rests in our hands. We need to give these large mammals a chance, we are their only predator and they cannot survive without our help.
Ground close-up photograph of an elephant parade with one of the members having a GPS collar.Recently Collars have been used to monitor their movements though some organisations are against them. Photo: Sarah Weiner.
The views, opinions and position expressed in this article belong solely to the author/s and do not necessarily reflect the policy and position of Save the Elephants