The Elephant Sanctuary celebrated our natural world and the elephants that call it home over four weeks of live virtual events and social media challenges during our first annual Party for the Planet series. From Earth Day to Endangered Species Day, the goal was to engage Sanctuary followers around the world in taking action for the planet and for elephants.
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 now considered endangered. This change in conservation status from a previous listing as vulnerable sheds new light on the dire circumstances facing elephants and their conservation in the wild.
“With the news from the IUCN that all three species of elephants are endangered or critically endangered, we felt called more than ever to take action,” says Joy Owens, Education Manager. “Our hope was that the Party for the Planet series would equip our audience with tangible and actionable steps that could have positive effects on the global elephant population.”
Party for the Planet kicked off with an Earth Day live event highlighting the importance of elephants in the wild. As a keystone species, elephants have a major impact on the health of their wild spaces, from digging watering holes to aiding in seed dispersal.
“When we talk about protecting elephants in the wild, we are really talking about protecting entire habitats,” Owens says. “We don’t yet know all of the ways a habitat could change for the worse in the absence of these megaherbivores.”
The take-home message for the event: humans are the ultimate keystone species, and we have a responsibility to protect our habitat too. You can still find the replay of the live event on Facebook and YouTube, including small steps you can take for conservation in your everyday life.
The Sanctuary also launched social media challenges each week encouraging folks to take a nature walk, participate in a neighborhood cleanup, or create recycled art. These activities were designed to be fun and engaging while also promoting tangible solutions. Hopefully some of these challenges – like swapping one meal to be plant-based – become lifelong habits for an even greater impact.
The series concluded with another virtual livestream on Endangered Species Day:
Elephants face unique, multilayered threats including poaching and habitat loss. Add to this their need for expansive habitat, mass quantities of vegetation, and their slow reproductive rate, and it is clear why the species is in crisis. The goal of the program was to not only illuminate the true conservation status of each species, but also to highlight the ways in which our everyday choices affect elephant habitats across the globe.