Loxodonta africana, the African elephant, surely is one of the most impressive, emotive and iconic mammals alive on earth today. Yet us Homo sapiens (meaning ‘wise person’) are continuing to drive this keystone species to extinction with our actions. Two of the main factors implicated in the species’ demise are habitat destruction due to human over-population and poaching for ivory. In 1980, there were an estimated 1 million African elephants, by 2012 only approximately 40, 000 remained. This represents a staggering 60% decrease in just over 35 years. Yet the human population in the same period has increased from 4.5 billion people in 1981 to 7.4 billion people today, a 64% increase. These statistics are surely shocking and make one wonder what we can do to stop this. What can we do to ensure our grandchildren enjoy the privilege of seeing these majestic animals alive?

Education is always an important factor in the conservation of any species, especially if its demise is caused directly by human action. Awareness of the problem needs to be created, both for population groups that are geographically or socioeconomically far removed from the issue, but who ultimately have the funds and power to make a real difference. Local communities also have the power to make a difference once they understand that wildlife is an asset to them. It is vital that local communities benefit off wildlife in a positive way. If this does not happen, there is little chance that our wild animals will escape destruction. Wildlife tourism is one way that is creating substantial financial resources to be fed back into the preservation of habitat of wild species as well as involving local communities through employment. On the other hand, communities living in close proximity with wildlife need to have the opportunity to experience why wild animals are valuable and worth protecting for their benefit; over their cattle and subsistence crops. In addition often these communities are located outside the parks for various reasons, so many of the community do not even get to see the animals or benefit directly from wildlife. The more personal and intimate the experience, the more holistically educated and emotionally involved the person, the more they will walk away inspired by and valuing what they have seen, and will be motivated to try help preserve what they have experienced. If something has a value to you, it becomes your responsibility.

To read the full article from the Intrepid Explorer magazine

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