World Elephant Day – August 12 2016

Majestic, intelligent and beautiful creatures, humans have revered elephants for centuries. The largest animals on earth, elephants are fascinating animals. They live in matriarchal societies and mourn their dead; they care for and enhance their environment and can show empathy and compassion; they have extremely long memories and baby elephants suck their trunks in the same way babies suck their thumbs. Elephants are curious, creative and smart.

Unfortunately, elephants are now endangered. Climate change, domestication and poaching for ivory means there are only an estimated 500,000 or fewer African elephants and about 40,000 wild Asian elephants left. Elephant numbers have dropped by 62 per cent in the last ten years, and they could be extinct in a majority of their ranges within the next 10-20 years. The loss of such a magnificent species would not only be devastating to humans who have so much to learn from these animals, but for the myriad of plant and animal species that live and thrive in elephant-maintained ecosystems.

Oak Foundation partners with environmental organisations dedicated to creating a better world for elephants. One of these organisations is the Royal Foundation of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry which has made a long-term commitment to scale up the response to this conservation crises. As part of its work, it has: implemented a spatial monitoring and research tool to help rangers with surveillance and monitoring activities to combat poaching and illegal wildlife trade; launched a free online course to engage with young people and future conservationists; and developed media campaigns to promote wildlife protection.

The Foundation has also set up United for Wildlife - a collaboration established to unite the world's leading wildlife charities under a common purpose: to create global change. Another Oak partner, Zoological Society of London (ZSL), is one of the leading conservation organisations in this collaboration. Amongst other things, ZSL is working towards closing domestic ivory markets to end the poaching of elephants. China and the United States have strong restrictions on ivory imports, but in the United Kingdom "between 2009 and 2014, 40% of all the seizures made by the UK’s Border Force were ivory items and in 2015, 110kg of ivory were seized at Heathrow airport in one of the UK’s largest hauls of illegal ivory" says Jonathan Baillie, director of conservation programmes at ZSL. "We must continue to work with global partners on crucial conservation issues and play a leading role at an international level. Time is running out. It is clear that elephants can rely on the United States and China. Can they rely on the UK as well?" Read more here.

Other Oak grantees working to support elephants include the PAMS Foundation Tanzania, MAA Foundation and Chem Chem Foundation. These organisations are all based in Tanzania and are playing a leading role in protecting elephants there.

This 12 August, World Elephant Day will mark its fifth anniversary. Millions of participants worldwide join together to give voice to the issues threatening elephants. You can be involved too. Who knows, maybe your Facebook post will help inspire others to care for elephants as much as you do.

Here are just some of the ways to get involved this year.

Take a stand for elephants by colouring in (download here) and repost with #eleedraw.

Check out the documentary film “When Elephant Were Young” released in honour of World Elephant Day.

Sign the petition to pledge to support a world that protects elephants, wildlife and their habitat.

Donate to help raise awareness of the issues faced by elephants worldwide. This year’s funds will go towards the Elephant Reintroduction Foundation to return more elephants to the wild protected forest sanctuaries in Thailand.

Share your love and concern for elephants on the World Elephant Day Facebook page.

© Jess Wright