August 12 is the World elephant day and the WWF takes the anniversary to remember that in Africa this species is threatened by habitat destruction and poaching and that more than 20 thousand a year are killed due to its tusks. From an estimated 12 million around a century ago, the population in Africa has shrunk to 415,000 individuals reported in the latest large-scale census. The NGO explains that in Africa there are two species of elephant: that of the savannah (Loxodonta africana) and the lesser known and smaller, forest elephant (Loxodonta cyclotis).
In 2021 they were assessed separately by the IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature) in the “Red List” as endangered. Today the savannah elephant is classified as “endangered” and the forest elephant is even included among the “critically endangered” species, ie with a high risk of extinction in the short term, explains the WWF. If the savannah elephant population has suffered a 60% reduction in the past 50 years, it is even worse for the forest elephant, whose population has grown from 270,000 to less than 75,000 in the last twenty years.
These giants are “gardeners”, “engineers” and friends of the climate, explains the animal rights association, specifying that “they disperse and help the germination of many seeds, eating more than a hundred fruits of different trees, and allowing the spread of shrubs and trees in arid environments such as those of the savannah, but they are also powerful bulldozers as they trample bushes, cut down trees and create paths and clearings. They also modify the environment, creating spaces and habitats suitable for the presence of many other species. Conservation efforts in some contexts are proving effective. The role of science is also important in conservation strategies. Recently a research group from the Universities of Bath, Oxford and Twente has patented an algorithm that may be able to support the actions of safeguarding the species.