World Elephant Day is an annual event observed internationally in support of the protection and preservation of elephants. It is commemorated on August 12th. The goal of these yearly celebrations is to raise awareness about the plight of African and Asian elephants and to exchange or share ideas on better care and management of elephants, both in captive and the wild. Various organizations dedicated to the preservation of world elephants use this day to educate people on the threats facing elephants, destroy ivory stockpiles, and urge governments throughout the world to enforce tighter measures against poaching and illegal trade of ivory and other elephant products.
History of World Elephant Day
The concept of an international day for elephants was first introduced by Michael Clark and Patricia Simms of Canazwest Pictures, Canada, and Sivaporn Dardarananda of the Elephant Reintroduction Foundation, Thailand in 2011. However, World Elephant Day was officially launched on August 12, 2012, by the Elephant Reintroduction Foundation and Patricia Simms. It was on the inaugural day of the event that the film Return to The Wild was released. In the film, William Shatner narrates the reintroduction of captive elephants to the wild in Asia. Since the first celebrations, the international community continues to observe World Elephant Day annually, and it is supported by more than 65 wildlife organizations as well as many individuals globally. Patricia Simms, its founder, continues to lead and direct the international event.
Status of African and Asian Elephants
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) lists the Asian elephant as an endangered species and its counterpart from Africa as vulnerable. According to one elephant conservationist, if the current threats facing both Asian and African elephants are not addressed, both species might be extinct in twelve years. Currently, the population estimate for Asian elephants is 40,000 and about 400,000 for African elephants, but some conservationists think the actual numbers might be much lower.
Issues Facing African and Asian Elephants
Poaching is the biggest threat facing African elephants, and it is primarily fuelled by the high demand for ivory, especially in China. Elephants are also killed for leather, body parts, and meat. The second issue is habitat loss or habitat fragmentation due to human activities such as deforestation, cultivation, and mining, and it is a big challenge for Asian elephants. This encroachment interferes with the population distribution of the elephants, driving some of them to isolation which makes it difficult for them to breed and exposes them to poachers as well. Intrusion also results in human-elephant conflict sometimes. Lastly, elephants are often mistreated in captivity due to lack of legislation regarding their treatment and care in circuses, zoos, and other tourism facilities.
Since its launch in 2012, World Elephant Day has gained the support of more than 65 wildlife organizations worldwide. The event has also attracted several notable celebrities who use their influence to highlight the plight of elephants and urge people to protect and preserve them. These celebrities include Leonardo DiCaprio, William Shatner, Alec Baldwin, Jada Pinkett Smith, Jorja Fox, Yao Ming, and political figures such as Hilary and Chelsea Clinton, Barack Obama, and Prince William.