A century ago, as many as 12 million elephants roamed the continent of Africa. Today, that number has plummeted to an estimated 400,000. A combination of illegal poaching for ivory, human encroachment, climate change, and war has reduced the pachyderm’s numbers and the available terrain on which it can thrive. In Asia, elephant populations have fallen by as much as 50 percent.
Today, this iconic animal that many first encounter in storybooks like Babar and Horton Hears a Who! is increasingly at risk of disappearing from the earth. Will future generations only know the elephant like we know the dinosaur: through sketches and storybooks, or in museums, reconstructed with armature and plaster casts of tusk and bone? Can we save the elephant from a fate that we humans are largely responsible for?
We can and we must, according to renowned conservation photographer Art Wolfe, who has documented the elephant and countless other species throughout a career spanning five decades. We just need the awareness, resources, and will to change course.