elephants, roots and shoots

Since many decades, emotional discussions on elephant conservation and their long-term management are mostly dominated by believes, economic interests, oral traditions, anecdotal stories and personal understanding of scientific insights. Generalisations such as ‘there are too many elephants in the area‘ or ‘elephants destroy all trees and at least the whole ecosystem‘ give reasons for the call for management of elephant numbers without thinking of the long-term consequences of such quick management interventions. Public media on national as well as international scale used to propagate such headlines and create the ‘elephant problem‘ in terms of numbers and the rates at which numbers change in which area over time. The selective use of words such as ‘destroy, destruction, overabundance‘, also by some scientists, together with personal believes and it is not surprising anymore that anecdotal stories replace scientific findings when proposing solutions for the ‘elephant problem‘.

To date, it is generally recognised that elephants, defined as a keystone species, fulfill a vital role in maintaining biodiversity in their dwelled ecosystem. In Africa’s and Asia’s forests, dozens of important and endangered tree species are depending on elephants. Their shoots can only grow if the seed has passed through the gut of an elephant. Those seeds are dispersed miles away from where they were consumed. We highly recommend the following research article by

Ahimsa Campos-Arceiz & Steve Blake:
Megagardeners of the forest – the role of elephants in seed dispersal
Acta Oecologica, Volume 37, Issue 6, November–December 2011, Pages 542-553

Regarding the connection between elephants and trees, we would like to refer to our video “elephants and trees in Mount Elgon National Park” with Philip Chepso.