AFRICAN SAVANNA ELEPHANT
African Savanna Elephants are the largest terrestrial animal and the largest species of Elephant on Earth. They are characterised by their trunks as noses and large ears which allows them to radiate excess heat.
LATIN NAME: Loxodonta africana
STATUS: Endangered (EN)
MATURE POPULATION: 360,000
HEIGHT: 10-13 feet
WEIGHT: 4-7 tons
LIFESPAN: 60-70 year
CURRENT GEOGRAPHICAL RANGE:
Historically, African Savanna Elephants were found across most of the African continent. Today the species distribution is retracted and fragmented, with current populations found in just 24 countries, occupying an estimated 15% of their historic range. This reduction is namely due to human expansion, poaching and conversion of land to agriculture.
The largest populations of Savanna Elephants reside in Southern and Eastern African countries including South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Namibia, Tanzania and Zambia.
African Savanna Elephants are found in 24 countries, occupying a large variety of habitats including montane forest, savanna, grasslands and deserts. They exist at altitudes ranging from beaches to 2,500m on mountain slopes.
African Savanna Elephants are migratory animals, capable of moving long distances in arid ecosystems. The migration patterns of Savanna Elephants are influenced by seasonality and drought.
African Savanna Elephants are keystone species, meaning they play a critical role in shaping their habitats and altering ecosystems. They contribute to the maintenance of savannas by reducing tree densities by trampling vegetation and stomping saplings, providing a habitat for other flora and fauna species. During the dry season the species is also particularly essential in creating watering holes for other animals to drink from by digging up dry riverbeds with their tusks.
Elephant dung carries seeds within it, allowing for plants to spread across their ranges. This dung also creates a habitat for dung beetles. Due to the large ranges of Savanna Elephants, they also assist in the transport of nutrients from nutrient rich soils in flood plains to nutrient poor soils in upland miombo woodlands.
Savanna Elephants, being one of the big 5, play a critical role in attracting tourists into National Parks, allowing for economies to develop. These creatures are also held with great cultural significance to many African communities.
African Savanna Elephants are vulnerable to poaching for their ivory tusks. This is a major cause of individual death, with an average of 55 African Elephants poached daily, leading to population declines. The trade of ivory has historically been high in Europe, USA and Asia. In 1989, the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES) banned the international trade of commercial ivory, in an attempt to reduce the population declines of African Elephant. However, the illegal trade of ivory still occurs, with organised international criminal networks smuggling huge amounts of ivory to Asian markets where ivory is seen as a luxury status symbol.
Trophy hunting industries still operate in some African countries including Botswana, Mozambique, Namibia, Tanzania, South Africa and Zimbabwe. There is an ongoing debate as to whether trophy hunting benefits conservation as the revenue created has potential to fund wildlife conservation efforts if used correctly, whilst the act of hunting could also help maintains the biodiversity of ecosystems.
The range of African Savanna Elephants has reduced to just 15% of historic ranges. This is largely due to habitat loss and fragmentation resulting from human population expansion and land conversion to agriculture and human infrastructure. With projected human population growth, land conversion is expected to accelerate in future decades. This will further reduce Elephant ranges, leading to increased contact with humans, worsening the human-elephant conflict.
The range of African Elephants may be further reduced in the future due to climate change and the associated increase in frequency and severity of droughts. This limits freshwater supplies needed for survival, forcing Elephants to venture further into inhabited areas in search for water, increasing the human-wildlife conflict. The increased risk of bushfires associated with droughts also threatens further loss of habitat and potentially leads to humans relocating to protected or semi-protected areas.
Saving The Survivors (STS) aims to mitigate the conflicts which arise from Human-Elephant interaction by collaring Elephants to track their movement and intervene before contact can occur. By collaring Elephants this also allows us to track natural migration corridors so both local communities and prospective land managers can avoid these areas, keeping both people and Elephants safe from harm.
Local communities are also provided with an Elephant tool kit, containing items such as flashing lights, Elephant repellent (comprised of garlic and chilli), and bangers and fireworks, to harmlessly defend themselves from Elephants.
Agricultural communities are advised on crops which are less attractive to Elephants to prevent damage to food and economic sources.
STS closely monitors Elephant population densities, supplying immune contraception where necessary to manage the birth rate in areas. We have assisted several private reserves with immunocontraception of their Elephant populations. This is an effective, reversible alternative to the traditional method of culling where the vaccine uses the female Elephant’s own immune response to block egg fertilisation.
STS supported both private nature reserves and National Parks in the immobilisation of Elephant to remove snares and treat the subsequent wounds.
STS has successfully treated Elephant in rural Botswana through surgical intervention of the abdomen, previously thought impossible. The extensive knowledge of the STS team allows seemingly medical miracles to be performed in the harshest environments and under the most impossible conditions.