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Man, elephant co-existence key for ecological balance

By Gordon Mutugi | Published Sun, August 12th 2018 at 00:00, Updated August 11th 2018 at 20:50 GMT +3

The increase of the number of protected animals being hunted down and killed for their parts has drawn focus to the wild and prompted official measures to combat poaching — efforts that have been intensified of late.

In Kenya, the causes of species loss have varied through time and include hunting, pollution, invasive species, habitat loss and climate change. These, mirror threats to animal species around the world. Kenya, has however, made significant progress in reducing some of these threats, and helping some species recover. Locally, one of the most endangered animals is the elephant. Reports indicate that an elephant can live up to 70 years without human interference. Yet, they face extinction due to poaching.

Animals are so important to human life and the eco-system that extinction of seemingly small animals like ants could spell total collapse of human life. Yet most of us are oblivious of the many roles of these tiny animals. With the last few remaining species of giant mammals, including elephants, largely confined to Africa, it’s up to humans to know better and do better.  

Man and elephant co-existence makes for some interesting facts. For example, during the dry season, elephants use their tusks to dig for water. Did you also know that seeds, such as those of the acacia plant have a 90 per cent chance of germinating if deposited in elephant dung? In the savannahs, elephants feeding on tree sprouts and shrubs help to keep the plains open and able to support the plain’s game that inhabit these ecosystems. If all their services were gone tomorrow, many plants would go extinct. Birds would die from lack of food, and soil formation would largely halt.

The knock-on effects would be as huge as food webs collapse and the world would quite literally fall apart. The most precious thing about an elephant isn’t its ivory. Rather – it’s the elephant’s ability to influence their natural environment for the better and in turn, ours. After humans, elephants have more influence over their environment than any other species.

So how can elephants be saved?

Future generations depend on animals like elephants, yet strangely, while we care about our children, we care so little for all the creatures which our children depend on. Our focus must be on increasing awareness on the critical role elephants play in our eco-systems.

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From a corporate point of view, organisations are no longer focused on only making profit, but also about being mindful of the society and the environment they operate in. Global brand Amarula, has been involved in elephant conservation through The Amarula Trust Foundation. The Trust has over the years played a role in preserving nature and wildlife with the creation of employment and symbiotic relationships through various initiatives. It is one of the ways through which businesses are stepping in to help humanity, aware of the role corporates need to play in maintaining the ecological balance.

To raise awareness for World Elephant Day, Amarula Cream launched the “Don’t Let Them Disappear” a joint initiative with African Wildlife Conservation Organisation, WildlifeDirect.

Kenya, and other countries including the US, Canada, South Africa, Brazil and Germany are also participating in the global campaign. On Sunday, an ice sculpture of a life-size elephant will slowly melt in Nairobi, dramatically symbolising the disappearance of the elephant population. This hopefully will create awareness about the need to conserve elephants in Kenya and beyond.

 -The writer is head of Corporate Affairs at Kenya Wine Agencies Limited [email protected]

 


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