Elephants are earth’s largest land mammals. African elephants have larger ears than smaller Asian elephants (their ears are actually shaped like the continents they live in). But all live in large female-led family units with mothers, aunties and cute furry little elephants (Asian elephants still live in social female groups, but there is no matriarch).
The males (bulls) tend to mate and then live alone for the rest of the time. Elephants have very strong family units. If an elephant dies, the rest of the family will mourn, just like with humans, often for months.
Elephants are amazing, and yet are severely endangered. Although poaching is illegal, trophy hunting continues and elephants are also at great risk from loss of habitat (and therefore food) and people who shoot them, when they try to eat crops of local villagers (one village has installed beehives, using elephants’ natural fear of bees to ironically keep them safe, by deterring them).
Others live miserable lives in zoos and circuses worldwide, when in reality they roam hundreds of miles in matriarchal herds (apart from bull elephants, who tend to roam alone, apart from mating). Earth’s amazing largest land mammals need our help urgently.
Conservationist Lawrence Anthony gained trust of rogue elephants (who hated humans and were to be shot) and rehabilitated them to the wild. On his death, two herds (who had not visited for 18 months) arrived at his house (12-hour journey) and roamed the grounds for 2 days, before returning to the bush.
Elephants live up to 70 years in the wild, and spend most of their time eating (the equivalent of 375 cans of baked beans a day!) Their trunks are not ‘noses’ but more like tongues, which baby elephants have to learn how to use, without tripping over them! They talk in low vibrations and ‘mourn the bones’ of dead elephant friends. Is it true that an elephant never forgets? It does have a large temporal lobe, but poor eyesight means elephants likely remember from smell.
Although it’s illegal in many places to kill elephants, many are also poached and killed. Not just for their tusks, but because as their habitats disappear, elephant herds tend to venture into villages and start to eat crops. There have been heart-breaking stories of elephants being injured and killed, as villagers harm them. Purchasing cards and stationery made with collected elephant dung, literally saves elephant lives, as locals then realise that to take care of the elephants, also means a good income for them.
Elephant dung paper is made by blending recycled paper with elephant dung, which is collected by local villagers, who then make money by selling to the company that produces these cards. This is the best way to stop elephants being harmed by farmers, who in the past have shot or killed them in other ways, as they eat crops, due to lack of habitat.
It’s not the elephants’ fault, so purchasing cards made with a blend of recycled paper and elephant dung, helps give farmers an alternative income. They see the elephants as friends, who help to feed their families, rather than as enemies who eat their crops.
Elephants spend nearly all their lives eating (the equivalent of 375 cans of baked beans a day). So this produces a huge amount of dung. So by harvesting it and using it to create a product that is sold to produce income for farmers (if they lose crops), this a win-win-win situation. Send a tree-free card to make someone happy, and save an elephant or two at the same time!
How to Help The Elephants
- Use your vote to elect people serious about global warming. If you don’t vote Green, then at least vote for MPs who don’t vote to stop progressive policies on climate change, logging, fracking etc.
- Reduce your personal carbon footprint to help stop climate change. This is the most helpful long-term way to protect elephant habitats.
- Switch to a green energy company (it only takes 10 minutes). There are quite a few green energy companies now in the UK, and they are as affordable as the big corporate companies.
- Elephants should not be in zoos. They are miserable and often too hot. Boycott zoos and donate to a elephant charity instead. You can report concerns of any animals in zoos (or circuses) to Freedom for Animals & Born Free (also take pictures and tell the local police, tour operator & local welfare charity).
- Responsible Travel has a list of ‘elephant sanctuaries’ to be wary of, as they are more like glorified zoos.
- Avoid antique ivory (it just encourages illegal markets). You can buy jewellery made from tagua nuts (‘vegetable ivory’).
- Elephant Gin is a German gin that uses funds to help elephant charities. The 14 botanicals include rare African ingredients, with mountain pine. The sloe gin with wild berries has a fruity bouquet. For tonic water, avoid quinine and grapefruit slices) if pregnant or breastfeeding or for certain medical conditions and avoid rhubarb tonic waters for stomach/kidney issues.
- An Elephant In My Kitchen is a story by Françoise Malby-Anthony, who after the death of conservationist Lawrence Anthony (above) had to continue the sanctuary alone. Dealing with personal grief and poachers, to top it all: the herd’s feisty matriarch didn’t like her (at first!) But she trundled on and ended up caring for a lost baby elephant who turned up at her house, offering refuge to orphaned rhinos and a hippo who was scared of water!
Donate to an Elephant Sanctuary
- Action for Elephants UK lists small effective charities. Register with Everyclick, then sponsors donate, every time you search the web.
- Boon Lott (Thailand) was set up by a Londoner, to help a baby disabled elephant. Katherine married a local – she had elephant bridesmaids, who smothering her dress with mud from their trunks!
- Elephant Nature Park is a sanctuary known for its devotion and care. Tiny Treats is a lovely e-book of wholefood vegan desserts (keep sweet foods away from pets). Profits help the sanctuary.
Fancy a cup of tea to help elephants? Elephant Friendly Tea does exactly that. It only certifies tea from plantations that meet high welfare for elephants and their habitats. Most organic teas do this, and it’s nice to support companies that are bringing awareness to this important issue. This is not a brand, but rather a label that qualifying tea brands can use on their packaging.As elephant habitats have decreased, elephant-human conflicts have increased. They also don’t know about changes, so still like to travel their ancient migratory routes of their elephant ancestors. This unfortunately means they often come into contact with people in or near tea plantations, and they often like to rest there (they don’t eat the tea leaves, as it’s not part of their diet).
But some practices like using herbicides can harm them, especially if elephants drink local water (many have salt, which they are attracted to). Many elephants have died drinking contaminated water from elephant plantations. Baby elephants cannot get out of drainage ditches, and many have become trapped and also died.
Elephant Origins is one of the first tea companies to be certified. One of the tea gardens is home to elephants, peacocks and endangered hornbills – but the company is American. Why is no UK organic tea company certified elephant-friendly? Write and ask them to apply, to help our elephant friends.
Find more ways to support certified wildlife-friendly companies across the world at Wildlife-Friendly. There are many companies worldwide, only one in the UK is so far certified that makes floral waters in Scotland.
No-one needs an elephant tusk, but an elephant. Thomas Schmidt