As the largest of all land mammals, African elephants play an important role in balancing natural ecosystems. They trample forests and dense grasslands, making room for smaller species to co-exist. Elephants also create water holes used by other wildlife as they dig dry riverbeds when rainfall is low. Herds travel over vast rangelands, and they disperse seeds in their dung, which helps generate new green growth.
The shutdown of ivory sales on Rakuten-Ichiba, one of Japan’s largest e-commerce platforms, in August 2017 blazed a trail for other online shopping sites selling and auctioning ivory. Some mall retailers even revised their policies to close shops trading ivory, but few online shopping sites have taken the same path as Rakuten — most notably Yahoo! Japan.
Space to roam. It is a must for the world’s largest land animal, but across the transboundary Kilimanjaro landscape straddling Kenya’s southern border — known for its sizeable elephant population — that roaming space is becoming harder to find.
Where previously poachers were subsistence or small-scale operators, now, organized groups engage in ruthless killing sprees. Poaching in Africa today involves militias, crime networks, and even terrorist groups motivated by the demand for ivory and rhino horn in Asian countries predominantly. The illegal killing of wildlife is more efficient than ever before — the syndicates equip poachers with gear such as military-grade weapons, helicopters, and night-vision goggles. In one of the worst events on record, armed poachers on horseback in Cameroon’s Bouba N’djida National Park slaughtered as many as 650 elephants over three months in early 2012.
The energy, food and financial needs of our species pit us against various flora and fauna in our complex ecosystems. But human encroachment on habitats and migration routes is not the only way we are facing off with wildlife. Humans are also actively wiping out iconic species like the elephant, lion, and rhino by turning them into commodities.