World Elephant Day is an international annual event on August 12, dedicated to the preservation and protection of the world’s elephants. Conceived in 2011 by Canadian filmmakers Patricia Sims and Michael Clark of Canazwest Pictures, and Sivaporn Dardarananda, Secretary-General of the Elephant Reintroduction Foundation in Thailand, it was officially founded, supported and launched by Patricia Sims and the Elephant Reintroduction Foundation on August 12, 2012. Since that time, Patricia Sims continues to direct World Elephant Day, which is now supported by over 65 wildlife organizations and many individuals in countries across the globe.
The goal of World Elephant Day is to create awareness around the urgent plight of African and Asian elephants, and to share knowledge and positive solutions for the better care and management of captive and wild elephants. Both African and Asian elephants face extinction, with African elephants being “Vulnerable” and Asian elephants being “Endangered” on the IUCN Red List of threatened species. The current population estimates are about 400,000 for African elephants and 40,000 for Asian elephants, although it has been argued that these numbers are much too high.
Elephants face a number of issues which affects their survival. Among these is The demand for ivory, which is highest in China, this has lead to the illegal poaching of both African and Asian elephants. One of the world’s largest elephants, Satao, was recently murdered for his iconic tusks. Another iconic Kenyan elephant, Mountain Bull, was also killed by poachers, and with the street value for ivory now exceeding that of gold, African elephants face a poaching epidemic. Elephants are also poached for meat, leather, and body parts, with the illegal wildlife trade putting elephants in grave danger, because it is perceived to be a low risk and high profit endeavor.
Elephants are also adversely affected by The loss of habitat due to deforestation, increases in mining, and agricultural activities which have become problematic, especially for Asian elephants.The fragmentation of habitat also creates isolation – this makes breeding more difficult, and allows poachers to find the elephants and set traps more easily. Human-elephant conflict is also a significant concern, as human populations increase and forest cover decreases, this forces elephants into close proximity with human settlements. Incidents include crop damage and economic losses, as well as both elephant and human casualties occur. Another major issue affecting Elephants is Mistreatment in captivity, where A lack of legislation regarding the care and treatment of elephants in zoos, circuses, and tourism often leads to their mistreatment. Captivity can be a serious threat to elephants, and Asian elephants are often illegally captured in the wild and trafficked into the lucrative tourism industry.
However Many notable celebrities have spoken out about the urgency of elephant protection, including Leonardo DiCaprio, Kristin Davis, William Shatner, Yao Ming, Prince William, Jorja Fox, Alec Baldwin, Stephen Fry, Ashley Judd, Jada Pinkett Smith, and politicians such as Barack Obama, and Hillary and Chelsea Clinton.