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Why we care about elephants on World Wildlife Day—and every day

Elephants number among the smartest and most empathetic creatures on the planet.

On World Wildlife Day, we celebrated these magnificent animals—and we continue to emphasize their need for our help.

Affection and altruism among elephants
Elephants never leave a member of their herd behind. Led by a matriarch, elephant herds lead complex and social lives—and show immense affinity. When elephants who knew each other as young encounter one another years later, they will recognize each other and touch trunks as a greeting.

And they recognize when an individual is in harm’s way. Researchers have observed elephants removing spears or other foreign objects from those injured, demonstrating that these animals not only recognize danger in others, but also willingly provide help.

It’s both humbling and amazing that elephants exhibit such remarkable emotion.

Sumatrans Elephant in Water © Nick Garbutt/WWF-US
elephants at sunset © Will Burrard-Lucas/WWF-US

They need our help
Unfortunately, both African and Asian elephants face massive threats from poaching, habitat loss and human-elephant conflict.

Tens of thousands of African elephants die every year at the hands of criminals out for their tusks. A global treaty made trading in ivory illegal in 1989, but the illegal international trade in ivory has skyrocketed in the past 10 years, fueled by demand from a growing middle class in Asia.

Dangerous international crime syndicates are often behind the trafficking of ivory and other illegal wildlife products, weakening governments and using corruption and coercion to move their goods.

Meanwhile, Asian elephants, also vulnerable to poaching at a smaller scale, struggle with shrinking habitat. This forces elephants into close quarters with humans—often raiding crops and sometimes injuring people, which leaves them vulnerable to retaliatory killings.

How we’re fighting back
Rangers, forest guards, eco guards, and field enforcement officers stand on the frontlines of conservation. Brave and bold, these men and women work tirelessly to protect the world’s most endangered species, including elephants.

WWF and partners launched an initiative to improve ranger standards and welfare in critical protected areas. We also work together to restore degraded habitat and introduce new techniques to keep elephants out of farm lands.

By bolstering grassroot conservation efforts and helping communities manage relationships with elephants, we can help stop wildlife crime.

And your voice matters
Small actions can make a huge difference for elephants—and other species susceptible to wildlife crime, such as tigers and rhinos. As the illegal wildlife trade and human-elephant conflict is devastates elephant populations, we need to use our voices to help. Pledge to stop wildlife crime and commit to preserving natures beauty for future generations.