Elephants are among the most intelligent creatures that roam this earth.
They possess complex consciousnesses that are capable of strong emotions allowing them to form strong bonds not only amongst themselves but with humans as well.
In a bid to understand the critical role Elephants play in our ecosystem and why their demise would mean doom to the human race, Business Insider SSA sat down with Kenya’s celebrated conservationist who has walked the breath of this earth raising awareness about Elephants conservation, Jim Justus Nyamu.
He recently concluded the #IvoryBelongstoElephants walk in the United Kingdom where he sensitized people on the dangers of buying Ivory and the importance of preserving our elephants.
Mr. Nyamu is the executive director and founder of Elephants Neighbors Center(ENC) and his organization seeks to raise awareness about conservation especially to communities adjacent to national parks through two pillars; conservation and research and community-based conservation programme.
He is a trained research scientist with a specialty in Elephants’ and has worked previously for Kenya Wildlife Services (KWS) and Africa Conservation Center.
Elephants support economies
Elephants have huge economic values and nations depend on the African mammal to lure in tourists.
African bush elephant is the largest land mammal on earth and as result features high on tourists list as must see animal whenever they plan their safari expedition to Africa.
“Tourism thrives because of wildlife and Elephants serve as a point for conservation, in fact it has been given another name as the flag ship species because if you take tourists in the park it is the largest mammal so they see and so if we lose elephants we are talking about 12% of our GDP driven by tourism automatically coming down”
“The Maasai Mara, the Tsavo and Amboseli , the biggest percentage of people who go there normally want to see two animals, elephants and lions” said Jim Nyamu.
Therefore without elephants the tourism industry and all the sectors linked to it would come tumbling down.
“All the people who work in the tourism industry from tour operators, guides, rangers and even in the petrol stations would be rendered jobless because these tour vans go to refuel, mechanics would be jobless because these tour vehicles require constant mechanical care because of the tough terrains in most parks, the mama mbogas (ordinary women) who do farming in Mount Kenya, Kinangop etc would also lose a huge chunk of their economic welfare since the vegetables, cabbages and plantains they grow end up in these tourists resorts and hotels and without elephants to attract tourists they will be doomed”
Elephants ensure survival of other species
During the dry season, elephants use their tusks to dig for water.
This not only allows the elephants to survive in dry environments but also ensures other wild animals survive as well by providing water for other animals that share the same harsh habitats.
Elephants improve ecological value
African bush elephants are known as change agents or transformative species because without them there would be no savanna’s today as we know it.
“Amboseni Game Reserve for instance used to be a thick forest but over time it changed to a Savanna, Elephants love knocking down trees and opening up the vegetation, by doing this they changed the habitat to savanna” said Jim.
A savanna comes with a lot of benefits to both wild life and humans.
“What is the good thing about Savanna? It attracted so many other species like Antelopes, buffaloes, Zebras etc. who came to feed on the new vegetation and in return this also attracted other predators like Lions and the end result is it makes it easier for tourists to see the wild animals. By knocking down the trees the elephants also allows the sun rays to penetrate to the forests floor and allows vegetation’s to blossom” Jim added.
Elephants help in planting trees
Elephants don’t just knock trees down they actually help in planting them as well.
It would not support Maasai and Samburu warriors heading their cattle, it would not support the hundreds of herbivorous species it currently supports which depend on the ecosystem.
“Elephants defecate 17 times a day, they drop 13 balls and about 40% of their dung is undigested so they help in the seed dispersal so they help us in planting trees, that means if we were to lose elephants some of those areas would be thick or bare”
Elephants dungs is the aroma of the African bush and without them most animals and people alike would feel lost, they would long for the succulent vine that tastes like salty snap beans but smells like bread dough.
Elephants have Aesthetic value
Elephants are among the most beautiful creatures on earth, their impressive body physique, bond and intelligence is second to none.
Since time immemorial human beings have been fascinated and marvelled by this creature to the point some have trekked long distances just to see with their own eyes how beautiful and majestic elephants are, millions of households across the world have elephants photos and paintings hanged on their walls.
Seeing and touching an elephant is actually on most people’s bucket list.
“What is this thing that makes a tourist save for three years, pay a plane ticket for $2000 come to Kenya and hire a tour vehicle for $200 per day for ten days, goes to Maasai Mara and pays a hotel $150 per day and stays there for a month buying everything and the day he/she is leaving they will not carry away those elephants? posses Jim.
“Elephants have aesthetic value, the pleasure of seeing and talking about this animal is immense, so beautiful that one will come back here and see it again and again. So, if we were to lose all these animals we would lose that value and attachment as well, we would have nothing like that” Jim added.