Analysis of The Ecology of Elephants

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Elephants are one of earth’s best kept secret, they are among the most gentle, unique creatures. They are among much like humans, they form tight bonds with their families, mourn the death of their own, and want to just be able to live happily; however, that is not the case for these magnificent creatures, as they are often subjugated to cruel and unusual treatment by what many call the greatest species on earth: Humans. My goal for this paper is to explain and describe the forms of torture that elephants are subjected to, do a comparison study about the similarities and differences between Asian and African elephants and discuss the ecology of elephants and why they are important to their ecosystem.

Since the beginning of man, Humans have been deemed earth’s most magnificent species due to our keen abilities to think, talk, feel and make decisions for ourselves, but why are we so cruel to those who are often seen as beneath us; animals. Elephants are killed for their ivory tusks and kidnapped at young ages to be used in carnivals and tourist attractions. Elephants need their tusks, which are elongated teeth in that they use as tools and weapons. There are two species of elephants living on planet earth, Asian and African elephants. Only male Asian elephants have tusks, whereas African elephants, both male and female can have tusks. Since one third of the tusk is embedded in the skull, it is impossible to remove tusks without killing the elephant. The ivory tusks that are taken from elephants are sold on the black market by poachers. In the past years the demand was at a market high, a pair of tusks from a single elephant could be worth over $100,000 dollars. This demonstrates that poachers will go to great lengths to get ivory tusks no matter the cost.

The reasons why ivory tusks from elephants are more valuable and sought after rather than those from narwhals or walruses is because of their certain texture, softness and the lack of a tough outer coating of enamel. The demand for ivory tusks is mostly from Asian countries such as China due to the social power and significance that they can have. They are most often compared to diamonds due to their influence that can be seen socially in wealthy societies. However, the reason that they are sought after more often that diamonds by those of Asian descent such as those individuals with immense sociality influence and wealth is because of their ancient and historical value. Ivory was used in the past as a material for tools such as chopsticks, needles, handles but most notably as piano keys. Only the wealthy and those with connections could afford thus making it even more rare which increases the demand. Even today, the symbol and influence that ivory has on the wealthy can still be seen due to the ever-rising demand of ivory, which in turn results in the death of thousands of elephants. Elephants use their tusks for a variety of things, the prime reason being as a weapon against other animals and to protect their young. However, they are also used for digging and as a way for breeding. Most female elephants, (cows) are attracted to big tusks therefore the bigger the tusks the more likely that breeding will happen.

Elephant tourism is a horrible and cruel thing, especially if for the elephant. Asian elephants are held captive in many different places such as India and Thailand. They are kidnapped as babies (calf’s) from their mothers or aunts, who try to protect their young and more than often are killed protecting or trying to save their babies. After being kidnapped, the calves are forced to undergo “training”, where they are broken in mind and spirit to get them to submit to the control of their “trainers”. They are broken through a process called phajaan. Phajaan is when the elephants are disabled, beaten and gouged with nails for days at a time. Many of the calves don’t survive, but those who do are left traumatized and injured. Many have been found to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a disorder commonly found in humans. This leaves them scarred for life, in most cases leaving them immobilized. Elephants that do survive are subjugated to a life of servitude in chains. Most people don’t think that riding on the back of an elephant is bad and hurts them, but it is very painful and can cause damage to their spine. In addition, it is also incredibly painful on their feet, which results in the development of pressure sores and can cause them to have trouble standing or walking. An elephant’s foot is very similar to that of a human, they have five toes and a large foot pad that takes up the rest of the foot. The foot pad can spread out and absorb pressure on the foot when walking, which makes it more comfortable for the elephant to walk long distances. When elephants are kept captive in inhumane conditions, they don’t have the ability to exercise their feet, which is something that they would be able to do in the wild. If the floor is dirty with bacteria and substances such as urine, it can cause an infection around the foot thus making it dangerous for an elephant’s health because if the foot pad is infected then it cannot absorb pressure, therefore making them even more vulnerable to diseases. Riding elephants may be a dream that some people have; however, it is severely damaging to an elephant’s spine. Humans have smooth, flat spinal discs, but elephants have sharp bony protrusions that extend upward from the spine. The protrusions and tissue surrounding them are vulnerable to weight and pressure thus causing the wearing down of tissue and bones if they are ridden for an extended period in horrible conditions.

Elephants are the largest terrestrial mammal on planet earth. Bulls and cows are male and female elephants, there are two living species of elephants with five subspecies. Bulls and cows never live together; instead, cows live in matriarchal packs while bulls are solitary, temporary living in bachelor packs. Matriarchal groups are often led by a grandmother or aunt from a family, the group would consist of sisters, nieces, aunts and calves. Elephants can live for up to 60 years, varying on the type of elephant. African elephants can live from 60-70 years while Asian elephants can live for up to 48 years but the oldest Asian elephants that ever lived was 86 years. It all varies due to the availability of food, water, habits and predators. Humans and elephants have more in common that most may think. Human and elephant mothers are both very protective of their children. Women carry babies for nine months while elephants carry their babies for twenty-two months. They are very connected just as women may scream while giving birth, cows will often make loud noises as well. They will also protect their children from harm, danger and predators just like human mothers with their children. When a family member dies within a family or friend circle. The living will honor the dead by having a funeral to honor the fallen. Elephants have similar behavior, if they come across a dead elephant or the skull or bones of one, then they would stand in mourning for long periods of time and even sometimes dig graves for them with their tusks for the body to be put to rest. Some humans believe that we are apex predators that we can do what we want without any consequences. What justifies the mistreatment that elephants suffer at the hands of humans. If our only goal on earth is to make money and take what we think we are entitled too then we will lead to our own demise. Elephants are the embodiment of man’s best qualities, such as empathy and intelligence, Humans should not want to be remembered by what we didn’t do and the bad decisions that we chose to make, we should want to be remembered by what we did to make a change, how we fixed our mistakes, and how we made the crooked things straight. We as a species need to take a step back and come to terms with how much we have hurt our home not just for humans but for animals as well. The sooner that we do that, the sooner we can start trying to fix our mistakes.

Asian and African elephants are often interchanged for one another or mistaken for each other, most notably because they are the only two elephant species still alive, so most people automatically assume, they are related. Asian and African elephants are completely different in their habitat, size, and other things. They are closely related to the extinct woolly Mammoth that once roamed from the Pleistocene to the early Holocene period. Asian elephants are predominantly found in parts of India and southeast India, they are considered forest animals and there are a Variety of sub species of Asian elephants such as the Indian elephant. African elephants can be found in thirty-seven different African countries: such as Kenya, South Africa and Botswana. Consequently, there are numerous sub- species of African elephants such as the savannah elephants which are predominantly found in savannahs throughout Africa.

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A comparison of Asian and African elephants as well as the ecology of elephants and the vital role that they have within their ecosystems and the relationship between humans and elephants. It is imperative to note that these three problems/ relationships are interconnected with one another. The differences between African and Asian elephants can affect how they treated by humans and the different varying levels of abuse that they can endure. There is an immense amount of differences between Asian and African elephants such as the shape of their ears for example. Asian elephants’ ears are smaller and somewhat in the shape of Asia, while African elephant ears are bigger and in the shape of Africa. The differences between the two types of elephants fit the environment that they call home. Firstly, African elephants are split into two distinct species: The African Savanna elephant and the African forest elephant. The African savanna elephant is larger while the African forest elephant is shorter and smaller.

The savanna elephant and forest elephant have different social behaviors and tendencies. Forest elephants tend to live in groups that have a few other animals while the family group of a savanna elephant is normally about ten, but they socialize in groups that can range from seventy or more.

The main distinct differences between African and Asian elephants can be easily categorized into three sections: the ears, tusks and head shape. African elephants tend to have larger ears that look somewhat like the continent of Africa while Asian elephants have rounder and smaller ears. The ears of an elephants are important because they do not have sweat glands therefore, they must have alternatives to cool down. Elephants ears dissipate their body heat which means it helps them cool down. African elephants have bigger ears to compensate for the extreme heat of the African plains.

Other differences between Asian and African elephants include the shapes of their heads. African elephants have rounder heads while Asian elephants have twin- domed head, which basically means that they have a divot line on their head. Physical attributes that can distinguish one species of elephant from another can include the following: the skin of Asian elephants tend to be softer with a decrease in the wrinkles while both species of African elephants have wrinkled skin. The trunks of African elephants tend to be lighter and is covered with more rings, which is also known as wrinkles.

Tusks are extremely important to elephants because they are a versatile tool that they use as weapons or to dig. They are also used in mating because females tend to want to mate with males that have the largest tusks and vice- versa. Male and female African elephants can develop tusks while only male Asian elephants can have tusk however this doesn’t not guarantee that they all African elephants or male Asian elephants have tusks.

Similarities between Asian and African elephants are very general because they do not have that many things in common. One of the predominant similarities that they have is that they are both herbivores, which means that they only consume plants. African elephants prefer leaves while Asian elephants mainly consume grass. They are the largest territorial mammal that is still alive. Their sizes are a testament to how big they truly are. African elephants are much bigger than Asian elephants. Africans can weigh from a range of 8,000-13,000 pounds and can be anywhere from 8-13 feet tall. Asians can weigh from a range of 6,000-12,000 pounds and can be anywhere from 7-12 feet tall. The final similarity between Asian and African elephants is that they are both distantly related to the extinct wooly mammoth.

Ecology is extremely important to any organism on planet earth. It differs greatly from creature to creature from animal to plant. Ecology is defined as the relation of organism to one another and their physical surroundings, which is how organisms and their environments interact with one another. Elephants are a keystone species, which means that they have an important role in their environment because they help maintain the biodiversity in their ecosystems. African elephants’ role within their environment include using their tusks to dig for water, which allows them to survive dry seasons and it provides water for other animals. They create gaps within the vegetation which allows new plants to grow which helps creates pathways for smaller animals. This is one of the main ways in which trees disperse their seeds and certain species rely solely upon elephants for helping disperse their seeds.

In their habitats after eating and disposing of their waste, their dung which contains seeds from the plants that they have consumed. Through decomposition the seeds are dispersed and grown into new vegetation such as trees, bushes and grass, which is a continual cycle that boosts the health of the African savanna. Other ecological reasons as to why elephants are vital organisms to their habitats is because they are dominant within its environment and has a tremendous impact on ecology because they help to remove trees, improve the condition of soil and create water holes. These are all key elements that allow the elephant to continue to dwell in the rainforests, jungles and savannas of the African and Asian plain.

In conclusion, elephants have a wide- range of abilities and characteristics that allow for it to have similar qualities to humans such as PTSD, the importance of family, babysitting, and teamwork. All these qualities are things that most people have or had experienced in their lifetime, which shows how connected humans and elephants truly are. Elephants are vital to their ecosystems because the role that they play helps not only themselves but other animals and plants and their environment. Their contributions help continue the cycle of regrow and rebirth in their ecosystems which allow for more organisms to live their for generations and generations.

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