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Elephants could face the same future as mammoths

( 20/06/2011 )

The future of the wild elephant has been called into question as one expert opined that the gentle giants could soon face the same fate as their older cousins, the mammoths and mastodons. That is - extinction.

As Professor Adrian Lister of the British Natural History Museum
explained to the BBC, the woolly mammoth, mastodons and other creatures resembling elephants once roamed all points of the earth. Until comparatively recently, millions could be found in the plains of North America or even across stretches of Europe.

"Until the end of the Pleistocene, there were millions of them throughout the globe, including in northern Europe and North America," he said.

Through natural or manmade means, eventually the habitats for these creatures gradually dwindled, leaving the beasts under great duress. This led them directly into the hands of another threat - one which also faces the modern day elephant.

"That loss of habitat squeezed the species down into small fragmentary populations," Lister explained. "And human hunting may have helped mammoths on their way to extinction once they were in this perilous state."

Currently, elephants have been relegated to foraging through three main regions - South Asia, central Africa and the savannah of Africa. Asian elephants have been long identified as threatened, but now the African forest elephant has joined it, according to the BBC.

"As logging and resource extraction become more important in the region, the animals are squeezed into smaller pockets of forest where they become easily accessible to poachers," elephant expert Stephen Blake said.

"There are no good estimates of how many forest elephants remain - probably some tens of thousands, but they are being poached at an alarming rate."

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