Many people don’t understand the vital role that elephants play in the delicate dance performed throughout the African ecosystems. Elephants are considered a keystone species in the African landscape. That means elephants play a key role in maintaining the balance of ALL other species in the community.
WHAT ELEPHANTS ACTUALLY DO..
- They pull down trees and break up thorny bushes, which help to create grasslands for other animals to survive.
- They create salt licks that are rich in nutrients for other animals.
- They dig waterholes in dry riverbeds that other animals can use as a water source.
- Their footprints create deep holes that water can collect in.
- They create trails that act as firebreaks and water run offs.
- Other animals, including humans, depend on the openings elephants create in the forest and brush and on the waterholes they dig.
- Elephant dung is important to the environment as well. Baboons and birds pick through dung for undigested seeds and nuts, and dung beetles reproduce in these deposits.
- The nutrient-rich manure replenishes depleted soils so that humans can have a nutrient rich soil to plant crops in.
- Elephant droppings are also a vehicle for seed dispersal. Some seeds will not germinate unless they have passed through an elephant's digestive system
Elephants are an iconic species, gentle giant creatures about whom we know only a fraction of what there is to learn. They communicate in complex ways, their gestation period is 22 months and the young grow along the same time scale as humans – there is no other creature that does so.
No one knows what will happen to the ecosystems that elephants support if they vanish from the wild. There are many reasons why many of us humans like and even love elephants… there is some kind of kinship that is hard to pin down.
Elephants are a big draw for safari clients and as such are important if not critical income generators for people with few other sources. They have economic value. But, perhaps more importantly, there is a powerful moral value. Elephants have only one natural predator... MAN.