By Bill Chameides
It’s World Elephant Day. (Who knew?!) Here’s a sober update on the ongoing saga of the proboscidian we call elephants.
All is not rosy for the elephant. From Jean de Brunhoff’s Babar to Dr. Seuss’s Horton, we have been entertained by the imagined adventures of the elephant from a young age. But while these stories may have been aimed at the young reader, the plight of the elephant in them is often precarious. Babar’s adventure begins after his mother is killed by hunters and threats loom large and varied throughout the story. And Horton’s life isn’t exactly cushy.
In reality the fate of the elephant is far grimmer than any of these childhood stories relates. While the elephant is a keystone species — meaning it “plays a pivotal role in structuring both plant and animal communities” [pdf\ — its survival is very much in question. Consider the stats on the surviving proboscidea, the taxonomic order of massive mammals distinguished by tusks and long flexible noses.
Some General Elephant Stats More....