The African elephant is, at present, a protected and endangered species and Addo Elephant Park in the Eastern Cape is home to one of the densest populations of elephants in the world. There are a number of¬†Addo accommodation¬†facilities available too, where guests can watch herds of elephants grazing from their bedroom windows. At this sanctuary, established in 1931 to protect 11 lonely elephants from the brink of extinction, there are now over 350 elephants.
Not too long ago, during the 1980’s, the African elephants’ numbers plummeted from 1.3 million to 600 000 in the space of a decade. It is believed that part of the reason for this decline was due to ivory harvesting. The history of the ivory trade stretches back to antiquity and it has long been used for the production of ornamental and practical goods. As it can only be sourced from the tusks and teeth of animals, procuring ivory has become illegal in many parts of the world. Ivory can be obtained from walruses, hippopotami, pigs and sperm whales, however, elephant tusks have always been the preferred source.
At present, only two species of elephant exists, namely the African and Asian elephant. In Graeco-Roman times the Syrian and North African elephant species were reduced to extinction as they were used in wars and probably garnered for ivory as well. Today, the Savannah and Forest elephants of Africa are still targeted for illegal ivory harvesting but measures are constantly being put in place to curb the practise. In 2011, Kenya boldly burned $16 million worth of confiscated ivory to illustrate their pledge to stopping the trade.
In some Asian countries like Thailand, however, the ivory trade is still legal. In China, the illegal ivory trade is estimated to be three times bigger than the trade in Thailand, despite the fact that in 1975 the Asian elephant was placed on Appendix One of the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).
Since ivory remains a valuable commodity and illegal ivory harvesting still takes place, the future of the elephant population looks dire. Fortunately, here in South Africa we have the resources to actively conserve these majestic creatures before it is too late and¬†Addo Elephant Park accommodation¬†is a great place to start.
Image Source: http://www.shadowsofafrica.com/wildlife-attractions/big-5