Since I will be in Thailand the next 6 month with GVI and my last A-level will most likely be about biodiversity I thought, I’d write about Thai elephants and their importance for the ecosystem.
Elephants play an essential role in maintaining forest dynamics and are considered a keystone species. So their absence or presence affects many other species. They spread seeds, which especially rare plants rely on. Due to their poor absorption of nutrition and slow digestion, they are ideal for distributing seeds and fertilizing the ground. They create trails through the Underwood that other animals travel on too. Another very important function elephants fulfil and that other species profit from, is the provision of water. By digging over the ground, they open access to the wet nutrient-rich ground and create small wells. So all in all just their presence, enables fellow animals easier access to food, water and the forest.
But it is estimated, that only 1000 wild elephants remain in Thailand and 95% of their original habitat has been cut down. The main drivers are humans. Cultivation of the countryside, illegal trade and its hunt for ivory as well as the increasing number of elephants held for domestic purposes and tourist attractions is threatening the wild population.
If the elephants become extinct, it would be a loss for the ecosystem as well as the Thai culture. Elephants have always been sacred and a symbol for power and peace.
But how can the Thai elephant be saved? Well, one option is supporting programs, like the one I am joining. GVI supports a village near Chiang Mai to release elephants back in the wild, by ensuring them a secure environment and health care. The aim is to provide a sustainable way to ensure their long-term conservation and survival. Through programs like these, the number of wild elephants will hopefully stop decreasing.
Where I got my facts from and for more information: