Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Gentle Giants – Elephants Today

For something that’s so huge and majestic, it’s strange how secretive elephants are in the wild.  They tend to shy away from humans and keep to themselves. Nowadays, these creatures are being nearly threatened to endangered. If their populations continue to decline, they could end up extinct.

These animals have long been used as symbols and play an important role in the culture of the people living in their natural habitat. For instance, in India, the elephant is considered as a sacred animal. In fact, one of the gods in Hinduism has an elephant head.

There are two species of elephants, African and Asian. Both of these species face a huge threat in habitat loss. Areas where vegetation like grass, bamboo, roots, bark and leaves grow are being destroyed. Some elephants have even gotten into the habit of eating crops like sugarcane and bananas that grow around the area where farmers live.

Like humans, elephants are very social creatures. They build very tight bonds among their herd and are very close to their family members. Herds have a matriarchal system where the group is led by an older and usually bigger female.  Elephants can live in groups of 8 to 100 members, depending on the family size and terrain.

Today, there is an estimate of 35,000 to 40,000 wild Asian elephants, and around 450,000 to 700,000 African elephants. A number of conservation groups are doing their best to save these massive, gentle beasts, but hunters and poachers who kill them for their precious ivory trunks are still rampant.

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