The Way We Can Save Elephant Population

African elephants live in a terrestrial biome, a large land-based biome with a vast or sparse amount of vegetation with several sub-categories of land. African elephants live in two different kinds of land ecosystems, a savannah and a rainforest depending on the species, as there are the African bush elephant and the forest elephant, but the most common one is the bush elephant. In the African savannah, the ecosystem consists of a desert grassland with some trees scattered around to keep animals covered by shade when the temperatures get too hot. Rain occurs at times, as it “averages 30 to 50 cm per year”. A common hazard in a savannah is wildfire, which occurs when lightning strikes the ground or when the sun ignites the dry grass, but the grass and other plants can grow anew after a fire, with plants having “seeds that sprout rapidly” and grass has shoots below ground. Savannas don't have many trees due to the variety of herbivores, fire, and “poor soil and lack of moisture”.

Another biome an elephant lives in is a tropical forest, a biome covered in trees and other vegetation with huge rainfall each year in a rainforest, “totaling 200 to 400 cm annually”. In a forest, huge tree tops form a canopy that covers short layers of smaller trees, which have vines and plants growing on them to get sunlight blocked by the thick canopy. There are several tree dwelling animals in a forest, such as birds, frogs, and even monkeys. Some forests don't have rain due to long, dry seasons but others have both dry and wet seasons, where trees take advantage of the wet seasons to conserve water to prepare for a dry season.

Another kind of biome is the desert, considered the driest biome due to having little rainfall with “less than 30 cm per year”. Deserts have a high temperature during the day, with “surface temperatures above 60°C (140°F)”, but the temperatures get colder near the evening and some cold deserts “fall below –30°C (–22°F)”. The vegetation consists of “water-storing plants, such as cacti and deeply rooted shrubs” due to the dry deserts, and they have defensive measures, like cacti spines or poisonous shrub leaves. The animals that live in the desert, such as reptiles, insects, arthropods, and rodents, evolved mechanisms for them to conserve water.

One more type of biome is the temperate grasslands, which are similar to savannahs but are treeless and are in areas with winter temperatures. Grasslands have a varying amount of rainfall but droughts mean that trees can't grow in the vast area, with fire and grazing animals also preventing forest growth. The grazing animals that live in grasslands include bison, pronghorns, sheep, kangaroos, grasshoppers, nematodes, birds, and various small mammals, but the main plant eating animals are invertebrates. Grasslands have fertile soil that is used for agriculture, namely crops or pastures for farm animals, to the point that natural grasslands are dwindling, with few existing in the world now.

African elephants are classified as vulnerable, often from people hunting them due to their tusks, which are a source of ivory. Ivory is a material used to craft items, such as sculptures, due to popular demand from Asia, particularly China, until 2011 saw “the highest volume of illegal ivory seized”. Poachers hunted down elephants to the point that “up to 80% of herds were lost” in the 1980s. African elephants are threatened due to people using land for agriculture or buildings, thus leaving the elephants with a declining habitat. The constant use of methods such as logging, plantation, or mining ruins the habitat and leaves the elephants exposed for poachers. Illegal poaching of elephants not only includes the issue of illegal ivory hunting, but “elephants are regarded as a source of wild meat” due to resources being overexploited. Governments try to keep protected areas for African elephants, but the areas are smaller due to the funds being hard to acquire without charities. It's clear that the main reason for African elephants being vulnerable is because of humans hunting them down for their meat or their tusks, or destroying the habitat that elephants live in for agriculture or buildings. There are natural reasons for why African elephant populations decline.

Biodiversity increases the elephant population by their genetics, their species, and their ecosystems. For genetics, elephants have the unique genetic feature of their tusks, huge legs, tough skin, large ears, and their trunks, which are a fusion of their nose and upper lip, and are used to pick up objects or siphon water, and breathing while their tusks are used for digging and weapons against threats. For species, African elephants dominate most of Africa and as mentioned earlier, there's two subspecies, the forest elephant and the bush elephant. There's a suitable size of them left, “approximately 415,000 in the wild”, and thanks to certain protected areas and anti-poaching patrols set, the elephant population is slowly increasing but more efforts are needed for the elephants to recover from their vulnerable status. Finally, for the ecosystem, the many ecosystems of the elephant benefit the population by providing them with plenty of resources such as water and vegetation for food, and the rainforest ecosystem provides the most for the elephants, giving them more protection against various danger, a larger access to water, and a wider variety of food.

On the contrary, biodiversity can decrease the elephant population by each of the three aspects of biodiversity and then some. The elephant's tusks are a liability due to the issue of poachers hunting the elephants down for their tusks, acquiring ivory for illegal trade. The hunting of elephants thus decreases the population, which is why there's few remaining in the wild. There are also conflicts happening with elephants living near humans, with the large animals destroying crops and elephants are abused in circus acts. Humans often destroy the ecosystems where elephants thrive in, getting rid of the natural resources the elephants need and driving them out as a result. The elephant populations can thrive well in their natural habitat, but it's clear that human interference caused severe decline.

The population model that increases the elephant population is the exponential population growth model, which shows that the population size increases with every “individual added to the population” over the course of several months, so we can track the population size of each new generation of African elephants. For example, the first generation of elephants has 30 elephants born in the first month. In the next generations over, the population gradually increases since there are few deaths occuring to cause the size to either stay consistent or lower the size. One main factor for exponential population growth is when a disaster occurs, reducing a population size but the disaster makes way for organisms to “take advantage of the lack of competition” and recolonize the ecosystem.

In contrast, the population model that can decrease the elephant population is the logistic population growth model, which shows the growth rate decreasing “as the population size approachs carrying capacity”. The population decreasing is caused by limiting environmental factors that cause the population size of a habitat to stop after a limit is reached, and the logistic population growth model records the animal population until the carrying capacity, where the graph line levels out after showing an increase in the population, thus the population never increases.

The elephant populations relate to my proposal of increasing the elephant population by asking for the people to keep supporting efforts made to help the elephant population increase, whether by keeping the natural habitats as protected wildlife sanctuaries, preventing poachers from hunting down elephants for ivory, use less of the elephant's habitats for buildings and limit the use of agriculture in the grasslands, keep giving back to the environments by replanting trees whenever they are cut down, and increase the natural resources by breeding more plants for the sake of the elephants. If we continue our efforts, I believe we can save the elephants for good and keep the magnificent beasts safe.

29 April 2022
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