African bush elephants
Elephants are keystone species that play critical roles in their environment. During dry seasons, African bush elephants, also known as African savannah elephants, use their tusks and feet to dig deep holes in riverbeds to access water. In the process, they create mini watering holes that many other animals like zebra, giraffe, and baboons use as well. The sheer size and force of elephants means they often trample vegetation and overgrown brush as they migrate across landscapes. This clearing promotes plant biodiversity by allowing sunlight to reach smaller, lower plants that would typically not be able to grow, thus allowing for other animals to thrive.
Where do elephants live?
Sub-Saharan Africa, rainforests of Central and West Africa
savannahs, rainforests, desert
Poaching for ivory is the largest threat against elephants. Thousands are killed every year. At this rate, the African elephant is at risk of becoming endangered. Poaching is not the only danger African elephants face. Loss of habitat, human-wildlife conflict, and climate change are also threatening their survival.
Why is ivory so valuable?: Ivory has been sought after to create everything from art pieces to teeth to piano keys. Since it is rare and exotic, people have and continue to pay a high price for the material, which has contributed elephant poaching. Fortunately, new regulations have made the ivory trade illegal in the United States.
IFAW has created a network of rangers, community members, and professionals around the world to stop poaching at every stage and protect elephants. In Kenya, we connect national park rangers, local Maasai community members, and law enforcement officers to create a better system for detecting wildlife crime. Through the sharing of information and use of high-tech data collection, our teams are able to detect crime before it happens and prevent poaching events.
In 2019, IFAW formed Team Lioness – an all-women ranger unit made up of eight Maasai women. Based on the border of Tanzania and Kenya, team Lioness protects the iconic animals of the Olgulului/Ololarashi Group Ranch (OOGR) that surrounds Kenya’s Amboseli National Park and is part of the Amboseli Tsavo Kilimanjaro landscape that IFAW has been supporting the community to conserve. The Lionesses who are part of a 76 member ranger unit protect elephant populations and other wildlife from poachers and work closely with community members to implement solutions that lessen human-wildlife conflict.
Our rescue, rehabilitation, and release work also allows us to better protect elephants and support wild populations. When orphaned calves can’t be reunited with their mothers or herds, our team steps in and provides them with a specialized rehabilitation process that allows them to one day return to the wild. In Zambia, we partner with Game Rangers International (GRI) to run the Elephant Orphanage Project and give rescued elephants a second chance. We also partner with Wild Is Life to support the Zimbabwe Elephant Nursery (ZEN) and help transform Panda Masuie Forest Reserve into a thriving ecosystem.
How can you help protect elephants?
Are you as passionate about protecting elephants as we are? Find out what you can do to help elephants in Africa from one of our past ambassadors, or take action right now! By making a tax-deductible donation to IFAW, you are helping us protect endangered wildlife globally as well as support the local partners we work with.
Photos and Videos
Elephant Nursery and Landscape Project - Zimbabwe
The death of a mother elephant is often a death sentence for her young calfSee project
Elephant Orphanage Project - Zambia
Orphaned elephants need a new herd and a new homeSee project
Protecting the Malawi-Zambia Landscape
Habitats cross borders—so do poachersSee project
airborne rescue in Zimbabwe by Wild is Life-ZEN and the International Fund for Animal Welfare saves tiny elephant orphanRead more
significant conservation wins for key species at world’s largest wildlife trade conferenceRead more
Kenya and Tanzania cross-border wildlife security patrols: combating wildlife crime in trans-frontier conservation areasRead more
MoU between IFAW and ZimParks: The start of a value-driven Conservation Partnership for wildlife and people to thrive together in ZimbabweRead more