Elephant Reflection

African Elephant (Loxodonta africana) mother and calf, Sambru National Reserve, Kenya

Elephants are some of Africa’s most magnificent animals. With a voracious vegetative appetite and prone to aggression, they can be one of Africa’s most dangerous animal. Despite this controversial fact about these animals, there is a different perception of them in the Western hemisphere. In America, our general perception of African Elephants is rather contradictory as most Americans would view the elephant as a rather endearing and vulnerable animal. Others may view them as wise and venerable animals, but still vulnerable to extinction from hunters and poachers. I view elephants as sensitive organisms, bad elephants are often misunderstood animals acting out from fear of negative experiences in the past.

Elephants are of large size and have complicated social interactions that often require large areas of space. In addition, they can easily tear down roots, trees, tents, and protruding pipes. Elephants can be huge, and both male and female adults can get highly aggressive when the males are in musth or the females are protecting their young offspring. Africans in the area, but farmers in particular, highly despise these animals because not only do they eat and trample crops and infrastructure, but they can also defend themselves too. Equipped with ivory spears and an extremely large size, these animals can easily run over and trample aggressive farmers, hunters, or poachers.

One of the biggest problems that is affecting these animals is the loss in habitat. Because of the enclosed spaces they are forced to collect in, they may often encroach on delicious crops, often to the dismay of farmers. Crops that are near harvest are vulnerable to elephants, so gunned men often guard the ripe crops for weeks at a time, costing the communities lots of money and effort. It would be far more convenient for local African communities to poison, trap, or eradicate these elephants. In fact, it would be even more convenient to be paid for these backdoor animals to be poached for their highly profitable tusks. I feel like this is an inevitable truth that is often a bitter pill to swallow. Even though that I may personally love the magnificent tusks and the mammoth-like size, I can imagine how difficult having a farm would be- especially if herds of elephants were trampling everything you try to harvest. This is why poaching is such a pertinent issue. Poachers will make an extremely large amount of money while working with the local African community on getting rid of nearby elephants. I can imagine that if I were an African farmer, I would be enthralled with the idea of poachers paying me to get rid of these giant trampling animals!

In conclusion, one important facet to the issue is that there is a contradictory view of elephants between America and Africa. While from a Western view, we may view these animals as sagacious, the locals in Africa view them as vermin. This only exacerbates the vulnerability of these animals, as local Africans willingly participate in the culling of these animals. While education in the Western world promotes the protection and conservation of the Elephant, it does not directly affect how the local communities view elephants, which in my opinion, is more significant problem. I feel like better land management practices, more efficient livestock and crops, as well as a better distribution of food throughout Africa can help soothe the negative interactions between African Elephants and the local African communities.