Tuesday, June 19, 2012

BBC Elephant Report June 2011

The BBC presented an equally dismal picture in June 2011, noting, “Forest elephants in Africa, to some extent, escaped the ‘ivory holocaust’ during colonial times, and the widespread slaughter of their savannah-dwelling cousins for their ivory in the 1970s and 1980s. This was largely because they were hidden away in their obscure forest habitat in the vast Congo Basin.” The elephants require large uninterrupted areas of wilderness to range through, “but as logging and resource extraction become more important in the region, the animals are squeezed into smaller pockets of forest where they become easily accessible to poachers.” The building of new roads not only contributes to diminishing the forest elephants’ habitat, but also provides access to formerly impenetrable tracts of rainforest. Beyond the damage to the elephant populations themselves, it’s important to consider the environmental side effects of their extinction. As elephants graze and roam, they drop the seeds of food they’re eating along with a large helping of fertilizer in their dung. The BBC explained that, “a myriad of other species depend on the structure of the forest that the elephants create.” And they quoted Stephen Blake, an elephant expert from the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Radolfzell, Germany, as saying, “Insects, mosses, lichens, invertebrates, other vertebrates; a whole gamut of animal, plant and fungal species are specific to certain trees or plants...If we lose elephants, we’re going to lose those trees; forest biodiversity as a whole is going to diminish. Samuel Wasser, a researcher at the University of Washington, also noted the environmental impact in a 2008 article in The Telegraph, saying, the elephants “keep habitats open so other species that depend on such ecosystems can use them. Without elephants there will be major habitat changes, with negative effects on the many species that depend on the lost habitat.”
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