This article gives us an insight into the role of the Elephants and the consequences if they decline and go extinct
Elephants are known as the most massive mammals belonging to the Elephantidae family. Only two species exist in the world today and are found mostly in the tropical forests of Asia and the African savannah. These are intelligent creatures and engineers of the wild, which plays a vital role in maintaining the balance of the ecosystems.
The high demand for ivory in the international market, the elephants, are mercilessly killed all over the world. Studies show that between the years 2007 to 2014, the African elephant population has declined by 30 %. Similarly, the Asian Elephant also recorded a decline in its community with less than 50,000 in the wild. If this declining trend continues, it won't take time for the elephants to get extinct from the face of the earth. Eventually, this can result in many chaotic events that can hamper the ecosystems as well as human society. Hence here are facts what will happen to the ecosystems if the number of elephant decline or get extinct.
1. Decreasing Seeds Dispersal:
Elephant helps to disperse seeds in the forest. They can travel for about 8 kilometers per day and allows the seeds of their preferred trees to move to areas not reached by other methods of dispersal by birds, winds, or other animals. These gentle giants pass the seeds through their digestive tracts onto the ground and left to germinate. Several studies show that at least a third of the tree species, such as the elephant apple tree, the slow match tree, and the jackfruit tree has become dependent on the Elephant to disperse the seeds and enriching the forest ecosystem.
As the number of the elephant population is declining recently, this has put the entire ecosystem in danger. Research suggests that although other herbivorous could take the role of seeds disperser, however, their contribution to dispersing seeds will be significantly less than, compared to the role played by the gentle giants. Further, research findings show that, as the elephant population decreases over a particular area, so does the native tree species.
2. Loss of Livelihood and Old Age Tradition:
Elephants eat a large number of fruits, leaves, and branches of different trees. Studies show that some of the trees preferred by these gentle giants in their diet contain medicinal properties, which are helpful and use by the local people. Further, the Elephant helps the forests to grow back these important trees through the process of seed-dispersing. Elephants are known to affect humans and their livelihood indirectly. Several studies show that local people who live close to the forest are poor and barely have access to modern medicines. These people use various parts of the tree to prepare drugs and cure many ailments, as this has been one of their old age customs and traditions. Therefore, this has remained a significant source of earning to sustain their livelihood. However, the decline of the elephants and the restricted growth of tree species have affected the people's livelihood and their old age tradition.
3. Reduce Biodiversity Richness:
Elephants are engineers of the wild; they play a vital role in influencing forest formation and maintain ecological balance. Studies show that elephants create an opening in the canopy of the tropical forest, thus allowing sunlight to penetrate the forest floor and promote the growth of other shrubs and trees to regenerate. Further, these gentle giants are known to change the landscape. They can modify the amount of visibility in an area and allow other animals to graze on the modified landscape resulting in high species richness. However, the decline in the number of elephants will not hamper the tree regeneration process, but it will also affect the growth of low-lying plants of the tropical forest. Similarly, the decline of these giants of the Savannah ecosystem will encourage the development of tall bushes and shrubs, preventing smaller animals from grazing and roaming freely, thus reducing species diversity.
4. The collapse of the Food Chain:
The Elephant provides food to lower-order species. For instance, the dung beetle and its larvae depend on elephant dung, as it is a source of food for them. Further, the beetle breaks down the elephant dung, which later becomes part of the soil, making the soil more fertile for other organisms to grow and thrive.
Similarly, the beetle larvae are a source of food for other insects and animals, making the ecosystem more complex and diverse. Hence, the decline of the elephant population will affect the dung beetle and other small animals feeding on the beetle larvae resulting in the collapse food chain and ecosystem.
5. Decrease Water Hole:
Elephants are very intelligent mammals. They use their trunk to sniff and find a water source over hundreds of kilometers, especially during the dry season. These gentle giants dig wells and assess underground water. After quenching their thirst, they leave the water hole, which is then exploited by the other lower-order species.
As the number of elephants declines over time, the number of water wells also decreases, leading to untold chaos. Many animals compete with each other for the water hole to quench their thirst. Further, the weak animals die of thirst, thus reducing species diversity.
6. Decrease Revenue in the Tourism Industry:
Elephants are an asset of the tourism sector and path creators of the forest. They help the tourist to venture through the woods on their backs and support the livelihood of the Mahout. However, if elephants disappear, it will affect the tourism industry and the livelihood of many mahouts, especially those residing in the developing and under-developed countries.
7. Affecting the Mahout Community:
Elephants are the bread earner of the Mahout. These gentle giants are a medium for which the Mahouts can earn their livelihood. They help the mahouts in their jobs by transporting heavy objects, trees from one place to another. However, the decline or the disappearance of the elephants will eventually lead to the suffering of the Mahout.
Conclusion and Recommendations:
Elephants are consequential creatures. They have inspired and earned the respect of many people they share this world with, giving them a substantial cultural and traditional value. Hence, it is very consequential for human society to safeguard the elephants from the hands of the poachers and illicit trade. Further, efforts that prevent elephants from extinction are implemented, and these are as follows:
- Scientific research and monitoring should be carried from time to time.
- Different Wildlife and Environmental NGO's are making people aware of the role and importance of the Elephant.
- Strengthening and improvising anti-poaching Initiative.
- Stop the ivory trade.