They are one of the Earth's oldest and most magnificent creatures. The Elephant is not only the planet's largest land mammal, it may well be it's most intelligent. With a highly developed social structure and complex language system, they are much more like human beings than we are willing to admit. Courtney Macklin is an Elephant Keeper at the Buffalo Zoo." They have very interesting social interactions and bonds with each other,it's a matriarchal society, so the female of the herd leads, and they remember where they've gone in the past to find food, and can find water miles away. They communicate with infrasound as well, which is a frequency which is too low for the human ear to hear but they pick it up in their feet they actually communicate through the ground over miles."
Michael Noonan is head of the Animal Behavior, Ecology and Conservation Dept. at Buffalo's Canisius College " They have brains that are larger than ours and intelligence that is equal to or greater than the other animals like dogs or chimpanzees. But they're different from primates, so their intelligence is this unique elephant intelligence that we're still coming to understand." >
With all of this in common with the human animal, one might think that we might be more empathetic towards the plight of these beautiful pachyderms. But such is not always the case. Elephants are being driven to verge of extinction by the ivory trade. The graceful tusks of these creatures, essentially a tooth made of calcium and other minerals, is used in the wild as a display of size and strength. But the ivory trade degrades them into trinkets or piano keys, and thousands of elephants are slaughtered to obtain them. Joe Hauser is a Rhino Keeper at the Buffalo Zoo." The major threat is poaching, especially in South Africa. There's an average of about ninety six elephants poached every day. Because of the ivory trade, China is the highest consumer of the ivory, and the United States is the second largest consumer of the ivory."
" It's a magnificent life form that deserves a place on this planet," says Noonan " To lose it's life because someone wants a piece of carved white ring or something like that, a napkin holder for goodness sakes, there are elephants being killed to make napkin holders, how can we not be outraged about that ? "
And lest we think we are removed from this atrocity in Western New York, think again. Although legislation was passed to ban ivory sales in NY last year, the state is the largest ivory market in the U.S.." New york City makes America the second largest importer of ivory in the world, so it is happening right on our doorstep." said Macklin.
Noonan agrees. " We can't say that there's no ivory product in Buffalo. There are, there are collectors in Buffalo, there's not as many as in some other places, but there are some. The world is connected, and Buffalo is part of this story." >
And just as man has fostered this disaster, so can we all help to stop it. Each individual can take responsibility , and trumpet our collective outrage over the injustice." Extinction is happening right now right in front of our face" says Hauser " We have the power to do something about it , and if we don't then we're going to lose these animals and the only way to see them is when they're stuffed in a museum."
" Think about the whales ," says Noonan. " As a generation we have saved whale species, think about the American Bison, think about the Bald Eagle. We need to do something similar with elephants we need to simply keep this drumbeat going until the world's attitude changes. Stop killing elephants and stop collecting ivory." Video.