Few animals are more beloved or have more of a mystique than the elephant. The world’s largest land animal, whose scientific name is elephas maximus, these ponderous pachyderms can grow can grow to more than 13 feet in height and weigh 7 tons.
For generations elephants were the stars at circuses. The Disney movie “Dumbo,” first released in 1941 and rebooted this year by Tim Burton, featured a baby elephant with outsized ears who could fly. We also know the role elephants played in the plundering of the Italian peninsula more than 2,000 years ago by Carthaginian general Hannibal.
Elephants are more than just genial giants; they are vital to the planet. In recognition of World Elephant Day on Aug.12, which is dedicated to the preservation and protection of the world’s elephants, 24/7 Wall St. will help explain why we need them. We reviewed material from various sources, including the African Wildlife Foundation, National Geographic, earthday.org, and panda.org.
You can find elephants in the forests and grasslands of Africa and Asia. But only on those two continents. This is why you won’t see wild elephants in North America.
Elephants are vital to the sustainability of the planet’s ecosystems. They tamp down forest and thick grasslands to create space for species to migrate. Elephants dig water holes in dry river beds for themselves and other wildlife. The massive mammals that eat 600 pounds of food a day disperse seeds in their dung across the landscape, leading to growth in vegetation.
The massive mammals have no predators except one — humans (and some lions). Poachers kill thousands of elephants every year for their tusks. There are other threats as well, such as habitat loss because of the encroachment of humans in Asia and Africa and global warming, which is causing drought. That is the main risk to the Sumatran Elephant, which is already critically endangered. Here are other animals that could go extinct due to climate change.