The elephant is one of the most iconic animals in the African savanna and yet they are being poached for their ivory at an unsustainable rate across the continent. With one elephant being killed for their tusks every 20 minutes the species is on a fast track to extinction if we do not act now.
Our founder, David Shepherd, was referred to as ‘The Man Who Loved Giants’ because of his fondness for elephants and steam trains.
Elephants are highly emotional and sensitive beings, living in tightly-bonded female-led herds, led by the oldest and often largest female, called the matriarch. Have you ever wondered where the expression ‘an elephant never forgets’ comes from? Elephants have incredible memories and can retain vast amounts of information which they pass down from generation to generation.
There are two main species of elephant – the African and Asian elephant. However, for the first time in 2021, the African savanna and forest elephant were acknowledged as two distinct species following the emergence of new genetic evidence. The African savanna elephant is the largest and weighs in at a huge 6,000kg!
A large elephant bull is more affectionately known as a ‘tusker’ – typically these old bulls have enormous gravitas and stately tusks. Today, there are sadly very few great tuskers left in the wild.
Tragically, elephants are killed for their tusks that are then carved into ivory trinkets. Elephant ivory has come to be known as ‘white gold’ and the high value we have placed on their tusks and other products has led to their demise across their range in both Africa and Asia.
During the twentieth-century wild elephant populations saw a rapid decline as consumer demand for ivory from Asian markets sky-rocketed.
Today, as few as 415,000 remain across Africa, with as many as 30,000 killed each year for their ivory.
Elephants require vast space to travel and don’t abide by national borders with many populations migrating vast distances, often across multiple countries. As well as the illegal wildlife trade, elephants are also threatened by habitat loss and human-wildlife conflict.
In the last forty years, elephant populations across Africa have declined by over 70%.
Image Credit: Colin McCluney
Image Credit: Leon Molenaar
Our work ranges from engaging in the international policy arena to fight for the toughest legal protection for elephants to funding ground-based conservation projects to ensure elephants remain safe in their natural habitat.
Elephants are one of the most vulnerable mammals on the planet and the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation (DSWF) is committed to addressing the threats faced by this iconic species.
DSWF fights to protect elephant populations by funding law enforcement programmes across Africa and Asia through the funding of park protection and anti-poaching efforts. Our ground-based conservation partners help to provide a blanket of protection in prime elephant habitats most at threat from the illegal wildlife trade.
In Zambia, DSWF has funded the Game Rangers International (GRI) Elephant Orphanage Project (EOP) since it was established in 2008 as a founding partner.
“Unless we act today to close wildlife markets around the world and end the demand for ivory, we will see the extinction of elephants in our lifetime. With one elephant brutally killed every 20 minutes for its ivory we are pushing the species ever closer to extinction”
Georgina Lamb, Chief Executive at David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation
Find out more
Elephants were once abundant throughout Africa and Asia but the trade in ivory has led to their demise. Read more here.
Read David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation’s position on the international and domestic trade of ivory.
Do you know the differences between African elephants and Asian elephants? Learn exciting new elephant facts here.
DSWF is working to protect elephants in Zambia. We have helped support the rescue and rehabilitation of elephant orphans.
How to help elephants
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