Endangered Elephants:

Morgan Truitt, 4th period

The endangered breeds of elephant:

There are only two different breeds of elephant in the world today; African and Asian. There are three subspecies of the Asian elephants, which are the Sumatran, Sri Lankan, Indian elephants. All of them are endangered, if not critically endangered.
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Sumatran elephants feed on a variety of plants and deposit seeds wherever they go, contributing to a healthy forest ecosystem.


Sumatran elephants are the smallest of the Asian elephants. Males rarely develop long tusks, while those of adult females may be so short that they are hidden by the upper lip. This elephant can live up to 70 years in captivity.

Sumatran elephants are found in lowland forest close to rivers, although they may also be found in hill forests on a seasonal basis.

They live in Sumatran Island's Lowland, and Montane Forests in western Indonesia.

The Sumatran elephant feeds on green vegetation and may eat up to 200 kg of food a day, namely bananas, ginger, young bamboo and leaves of a variety of vines.

Critically endangered:

Sumatran elephants were once widespread on Sumatra. Today, however, the subspecies only survives highly fragmented populations. Within the last 25 years, the elephants have lost 70% of their habitat. There are only about 2,400 left in the world.

According to IUCN, 85% of the animal's remaining habitat is unprotected and likely to be converted for agriculture or other purposes. As forests shrink, elephants are increasingly closer to fields and cultivated land, generating conflict with humans that often results in the death of the elephants by poisoning or capture, as well as economic losses to humans.

Sri Lankan Elephants (Elephas maximus maximus):

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Elephants hold symbolic, cultural and economic importance in Sri Lanka. They attract tourists who visit national parks to observe elephants in the wild. They support logging operations by dragging felled logs and have special significance in religious events.


The Sri Lankan subspecies is the largest and also the darkest of the Asian elephants, with patches of depigmentation—areas with no skin color—on its ears, face, trunk and belly.

The herd size in Sri Lanka ranges from 12-20 individuals or more, with the oldest female, or 'matriarch', leading the herd. In Sri Lanka, herds have been reported to contain "nursing units," consisting of lactating females and their young, and "juvenile care units", containing females with juveniles.

Their geological location is in southwestern Sri Lanka.


The latest count places elephant population size in Sri Lanka between 3,160 and 4,405 individuals. Of these, between 2,000 and 2,870 are found in protected areas, however this is likely to be an underestimate. Captive elephants have declined to 400-600 individuals. As a result of forest clearing, human-elephant conflicts have also increased and led to the death of both humans and elephants, and the destruction of property. The problem is compounded by the elephant's predilection for crops such as sugar cane, bananas and other fruits grown by humans.
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Elephants are an important cultural icon in India. According to Indian mythology, the gods (deva) and the demons (asura) churned the oceans in a search for the elixir of life - 'amrit' (nectar) - so that they would become immortal. As they did so, the 'navratnas' (nine jewels) surfaced, one of which was the elephant.


The skin color of Indian elephants is dark grey to brown, with patches of pink on the forehead, the ears, the base of the trunk and chest.

Asian elephants are extremely sociable, forming groups of 6 to 7 related females that are led by the oldest female, the 'matriarch'

More than two thirds of the day may be spent feeding on grasses, but large amounts of tree bark, roots, leaves and small stems are also eaten. Cultivated crops such as bananas, rice and sugarcane are favored foods. Because they need to drink at least once a day, the species are always close to a source of fresh water.

They live in the southeast and eastern part of Asia.


There are still a good 20,000 Indian elephants left in the world. India has by far the largest remaining populations of Indian elephant (estimated at around 57% of the total). Small populations of the subspecies are also found on the Andaman Islands and in Borneo.

The main threat facing Indian elephants, like all Asian elephants, is loss of habitat and the resulting human-elephant conflict.
In south Asia, it is the quest for land by an ever increasing human population that causes many illegal encroachments in elephant habitat, thus causing habitat loss and fragmentation. In some cases, it is development activities, such as roads, railway tracks, in crucial corridor areas that fragment the habitat.

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The presence of African elephants helps to maintain suitable habitats for many other species. In central African forests, up to 30 percent of tree species may require elephants to help with dispersal and germination. They play a pivotal role in shaping their habitat because of the enormous impact they have on factors ranging from fresh water to forest cover.


The African elephant is the largest animal walking the Earth. Their herds wander through 37 countries in Africa. They are easily recognized by their trunk that is used for communication and handling objects. And their large ears allow them to radiate excess heat. Upper incisor teeth develop into tusks in African elephants and grow throughout their lifetime.


Vulnerable means that they are very close to being endangered. African elephants have less room to roam than ever before as expanding human populations convert land for agriculture, settlements and developments. The elephants’ range shrank from three million square miles in 1979 to just over one million square miles in 2007.

As habitats contract and human populations expand, people and elephants are increasingly coming into contact with each other. Where farms border elephant habitat or cross elephant migration corridors, damage to crops and villages can become commonplace. This often leads to conflicts that elephants invariably lose. But loss of life can occur on both sides, as people may be trampled while trying to protect their livelihoods, and game guards often shoot "problem" elephants.

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Another major threat to all elephants is the ivory trade. Poachers kill elephants for their tusks and sell them illegally. Over 35,000 elephants a year die because of the poachers. All the elephants also face the threat of loss of their habitat which leads to human conflict, which usually leads in the death of people and elephants.

What are we doing about it?

Ivory stockpile destruction

Nations around the world have seized tons of illegally trafficked ivory since a ban on international trade of ivory went into effect in 1989.

An increasing number of countries along the trade chain from elephant range states to ivory consumer nations have publicly destroyed their confiscated ivory stockpiles through burning and crushing.

IFAW has participated in ivory destruction events in the US, UK, France, Belgium,mainland China and Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of China.

Reducing conflict between people and elephants:

WWF has trained elephants and local people to form a "flying squad" that drives wild elephants away from farms and back into the forests.To increase public support for elephant conservation by reducing conflict, WWF helps train wildlife managers and local communities to use modern methods and tools to mitigate human-elephant conflict. We mobilize communities to help protect their crops through elephant monitoring to provide early warning systems, erect fences where required, and educate communities to reduce conflict through behavior change.

Protecting elephant habitat:

WWF works with elephant range state governments, local people and non-governmental partners to secure a future for this powerful symbol of nature by thinking beyond protected areas. We advocate for large conservation landscapes like KAZA, the largest transboundary conservation area in the world. Home to almost 250,000 elephants, we work to maintain this space to provide elephants freedom to roam.

WWF and other organizations all over the world are coming together and doing what they can to stop the extinction of these gentle giants. If we don't do something now, then there's a great chance that they will all be extinct by 2020.