Humans share the planet with many animals including the elephants. Elephants are regarded to be the most intelligent among all other animals. They have complex consciousness and are capable of having strong emotions and deep feelings. However, the decrease in the population of the world’s elephants is alarming. Up to date, the remaining wild African Elephants are only around 550 000 in number. The situation is worse in Asia—just around 45 000 Asian Elephants are left. The decline in population is due to human actions such as poaching for their ivories, conflict with human habitation and habitat loss and degradation. So, why does the environment need to have elephants? Below are some points to answer the question of why elephants are important.
Why are the Elephants Important?
1. Elephants are seed-dispersers
Elephants are often called as Megagardeners of the forest. The seed dispersal of the elephants is evident in the spatial distribution of many trees which suggest that these animals are maintaining the diversity of the trees and encouraging seed dispersal. Forest elephants are essential for ecosystem function.
The loss of these elephants will have a significant negative consequence for the ecological trajectories of some plant species
They eat seeds, and they transport them and plant them in their dung. Studies are suggesting that they can disperse seeds as far as 57 km. The dung of the elephant is a perfect fertilizer because it is rich in nutrients which will allow seeds to germinate and grow. The loss of these elephants will have a significant negative consequence for the ecological trajectories of some plant species. It is sad that the conservation status of the forest elephants is catastrophic both in Asia and Africa due to hunting and conflicts with people.
2. Elephants are food providers
The dung of the elephant in itself is already a valuable food resource. Take for example the following: beetles will collect the dung, and then it will be stored as a food resource for their larvae.
The dung of the elephant in itself is already a valuable food resource
Then, this will provide a food resource for honey badgers which will eat the larvae of the dung beetle. Aside from this example, the elephants also bring down branches using their trunks. These branches will provide fruit and leaves as a food resource to the animals of the lower levels.
3. Elephants are water providers
Elephants are using their tusks to dig for water during the dry season. This act doesn’t only benefit the elephants as it allows the elephants to survive in the dry environment and during droughts. This also benefits other animals as the elephants provide water for them that are sharing harsh habitats.
Elephants are using their tusks to dig for water during the dry season
4. Elephants are habitat modifiers
In the forests, when the elephants eat, they are creating gaps in the vegetation. The gaps which are formed allow new plants to grow and develop paths for other small animals to use. Also, these clearings are created by trampling. The gaps or clearances allow more light to reach the floor of the forest which will give the lower lying plants a chance to grow. Thus, the elephants are promoting biodiversity which provides new niches for the inhabitation of the new organisms.
5.Elephants are used in constructions
One of the roles of the African elephants is to pull down big trees and break thorny bushes up. An elephant can lift 300kg using its trunk alone. When a rope is tied to the logs, the elephant can lift even up to 500kg! This will result in grasslands and salt licks which make other small animal’s lives easier.
An elephant can lift 300kg using its trunk alone
Another role of the elephants is to create water holes using their tusks by digging dry river beds. The massive structure of the elephants help other animals and human tribes to gain access to watering holes which will be used as an essential resource of water.
6. Elephants may help to fight cancer. According to researchers at the University of Utah and University of Chicago, the elephants have evolved a DNA which is superior in the repairing mechanism to get rid of the cells which have cancer-causing mutations. With this, the elephants can be an aid to the scientists to develop novel drugs to fight against cancer or prevent this disease from forming.
The elephants can be an aid to the scientists to develop novel drugs to fight against cancer or prevent this disease from forming
In summary, the above will show you some answers to the question of why the elephants are important. With the given overview, it is undeniable to see that these creatures are so critical to the communities and our ecosystems. The elephants are significant not only because of their contribution to the ecosystem, their power and aesthetic beauty, their value to developing countries, but also because their existence is a symbol of security, stability, and the triumph of good governance. Losing the elephant species will not just mean losing an animal which is embedded in our history, but it would mean creating a trophic cascade which results in the loss of many species and habitats.