Conservation Efforts

    Conserving current elephant populations can be challenging because it means fighting a war on many fronts because the decline in elephant populations does not have a single cause but rather has many contributing factors. Furthermore, revitalizing current elephant communities can be inhibited by their long gestation period of 22 months (Groning 1998). Conserving our current elephant populations is critical to protecting biodiversity (in addition to their role as keystone species, other animals such as termites, dung beetles, and some species of birds are directly dependent upon elephants) and saving elephants from extinction (Barnes 1999). There are a variety of different approaches to saving the elephants, which can involve both legal and environmental protection. Legal issues include banning the ivory trade, which was accomplished by CITES in 1989 and has significantly reduced poaching (though illegal ivory trade and poaching is still very abundant) (Hertzler and Gomera 2004). Now the discussion has switched to greater enforcement of the ivory ban and more patrolling for poachers and the removal of snare traps that these poachers have set, as well as harsher punishments for poachers who are caught.
    Environmental and habitat protection and restoration is equally if not more important of an effort. In Asia, only 16% of unfragmented elephant wild lands are legally protected (Leimgruber et al., 2003). It is also important to protect lands that connect various elephant populations and habitats called "corridors" so that elephants are able to follow normal migration patterns and use migration as a response to environmental stresses (Johnsingh and Williams, 1999). Many environmental groups are pressing for restoration of elephants habitats as well as protection for existing habitats. For example, the International Fund for Animal Welfare has worked with Addo Elephant National Park to raise the funds to buy more land that will be preserved for elephants. They have also worked to connect fragmented elephant populations with the construction of migratory corridors that also provide a link to other habitats (IFAW 2003).
    Decreasing the frequency of human-elephant conflicts is another important key to protecting the species. These efforts include building fences and trenches, using watch towers and trip wires to warn villages of incoming elephants before they arrive, and deterring elephants from crop lands using chilli smoke and spotlights (Zimmerman, 2009). Conservation groups like Elefence International focus on these issues. Education for local children can also be an important aspect of conservation because it passes on to the future of the community the strategies and necessity of supporting elephant populations. Many ecologists are now advocating a community-based approach to elephant conservation (Zimmerman, 2009). Conservationists can help by setting up elephant nurseries and refuges for elephants who have been harmed or orphaned after their parents were killed by poachers. These facilities can rehabilitate these animals so they are able to be released into the wild and thrive there.