World Wildlife Day: Interesting facts about elephants

About 100,000 elephants were estimated to be slaughtered for their ivory between 2010-2012. The celebrations for this year's World Wildlife Day would centre around the theme, "The future of wildlife is in our hands" with the sub theme being "The future of elephants is in our hands", in an effort to highlight the precarious plight of the African and Asian Elephant species. Elephants along with pangolins, rhinoceros , sharks, tigers and precious tree species are among the most critically poached and trafficked species across the world. 

We look at some interesting trivia about elephants on this occasion...

Asian elephant mother with calf at Corbett National Park
Asian elephant mother with calf at Corbett National Park

>> Currently there are two widely known elephant species in the world -- the African and the Asian elephant. Although, similar in physiology, they are too biologically different to interbreed.

>> Recent studies have suggested that the African forest elephant is a genetically distinct species, making it a third elephant species.

>> An elephant's tusk contains over 40,000 muscles, which is more than all the muscles in the human body. This enables the animal to tear down trees or pick a single blade of grass.

>> Elephants gestate at almost 22 months, the longest gestation period of any animal with a newborn elephant calf capable of weighing up to 260 pounds (117.934 kg).

>> An elephant's brain weights 11 pounds (4.98952 kg), which is larger than any other land animal in the world.

>> There are only 40000 Asian elephants left in the world making it an endangered species.

>> The African Elephant population is also under threat with less than 400,000 remaining worldwide. This includes the Forest and Savannah elephant subspecies.

African Elephant
An African elephant

>> The Asian elephant's habitat over 13 countries across Asia. About half of its population is said to be in India. There were over 100,000 elephants in Thailand at the beginning of last century. There are less than 4,000 today.

>> Elephants are a keystone species. It means they create and maintain the ecosystems in which they live and make it possible for a myriad of plant and animal species to live in those environments as well. To lose the elephant is to lose an environmental caretaker and an animal from which we have much to learn.

>> Tusks are found in African elephants of both sexes while only in Asian males. An African bull’s tusks can grow to over 11 feet long and weigh 220 pounds (99.7903 kg).

>> The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) issued an international ban on ivory trade in 1989.

Borneo pygmy elephant

>> The Borneo pygmy elephant is the smallest species of elephants in Asia, found in northeastern parts of Borneo island, in Indonesia and Malaysia. The population of this species has declined over the years and it has been listed as endangered by IUCN (Click here to view more endangered species in pictures)

>> The street value of a single elephant tusk is said to be approximately USD 15,000. Chain is the main market for illegal ivory, where a single tusk can fetch USD 100,000–200,000. 2013 saw the greatest quantity of ivory confiscated in the last 25 years.

>> In Thailand, the elephant is a national icon: it has a national holiday designated in its honor and elephants can receive a Royal title from the King.

What is World Wildlife Day?
World Wildlife Day is observed globally on March 3rd every year to celebrate and raise awareness of the world’s wild fauna and flora. It was officially proclaimed at the 68th session, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) on 20 December 2013. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) was adopted on the same day. It was proposed by Thailand.

Additionally, World Elephant Day is observed worldwide every year on August 12 to protect elephants , wildlife and their habitat. It was officially declared 3 years ago with the objective to help help conserve and protect elephants from the numerous threats they face. 

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