Today is Endangered Species Day, a day to bring awareness to threatened and endangered species and learn how to help protect them.
At the end of March 2021, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature announced that for the first time, both African species of elephants – African Forest and African Savanna – were assessed separately, leading to new conservation designations for each species. African Forest elephants would join their Asian cousins as critically endangered, and African Savanna elephants are considered endangered. This change in conservation status from a previous listing as vulnerable sheds light on the dire circumstances facing elephants and their conservation in the wild.
Across the globe, elephants are facing unprecedented threats to the continuation of their species. In an effort to increase understanding of and support for conservation efforts to protect elephants in the wild, The Sanctuary collaborates with and supports international organizations on four continents: Africa, Europe, Asia, and South America. As we continue to celebrate Party for the Planet, we want to applaud our International Partners, who are doing their part in spreading awareness about elephants and the important role they play for the health of our planet.
Like elephants, humans are a keystone species and have an enormous impact on the ecosystem, carrying an incredible responsibility to care for our environment and those we share this planet with. A keystone species is one that is vital to its habitat, and if removed, that ecosystem would struggle to survive. Many different environments have keystone species; some include bees, American alligators, saguaro cactus, snow geese, the wolves in Yellowstone National Park, and of course, elephants. To help support these incredible species around the world (and maybe some right in your own backyard), remember to take the elephants lead, and act as a virtuous keystone species in your environment. Here are a few simple things you can do:
- Learn about endangered species in your area and spread the word! Teach your friends and family about the wonderful wildlife, birds, fish and plants that live near you. The first step to protecting endangered species is by spreading awareness and learning about how important they are.
- Make your home wildlife friendly. Secure garbage in shelters or cans with locking lids, feed pets indoors and lock pet doors at night to avoid attracting wild animals into your home, and place decals on windows to help birds avoid collision.
- Plant your own native pollinator garden. Native plants provide food and shelter for native wildlife. Attracting native insects like bees and butterflies can help pollinate and spread your plants. Be careful not to plant non-native species. These are often invasive, which compete for food and resources, increasing risk of extinction. You can learn more about The Sanctuary's pollinator garden project with the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency here!
- Stop the use of herbicides and pesticides. These chemicals may keep yards looking nice but they are in fact hazardous pollutants that affect wildlife at many levels. Try to use all natural pesticides when possible.
- Give to The Sanctuary’s Spring Campaign to help provide home and herd for elephants, an endangered species right here in Tennessee.
- Recycle! Purchase recycled items like printing paper and toilet paper, and use sustainable products like bamboo. Always recycle items like old cell phones and other electronics, which are developed by using specific minerals mined primarily within gorilla habitats.
- Do not purchase items that use unsustainable palm oil, which contribute to deforestation of elephant and orangutan habitats, to plant palm plantations.
- Buy shade-grown coffee from The Sanctuary's Gift Shop! The best coffees in the world are grown in the shade of other tropical trees, and shade canopies are home to many wild animal species, including elephants. Purchasing shade-grown coffee helps protect their natural habitats from deforestation.
- Participate in local community clean up events, or start your own! Help keep your community litter free.
- Never purchase products made from threatened or endangered species. Overseas trips can be exciting and fun, and everyone wants a souvenir. But sometimes the souvenirs are made from species nearing extinction. Avoid supporting the market in illegal wildlife including tortoise-shell, ivory, and coral.