Conserve elephants. They hold a scientific mirror up to humans
15 / 06 / 2017, Economist Science and Technology
THE symbol of the World Wide Fund for Nature is a giant panda. The panda’s black-and-white pelage certainly makes for a striking logo. But, though pandas are an endangered species, the cause of their endangerment is depressingly quotidian: a loss of habitat as Earth’s human population increases. A better icon might be an elephant, particularly an African elephant, for elephants are not mere collateral damage in humanity’s relentless expansion. Often, rather, they are deliberate targets, shot by poachers, who want their ivory; by farmers, because of the damage they do to crops; and by cattle herders, who see them as competitors for forage.
In August 2016 the result of the Great Elephant Census, the most extensive count of a wild species ever attempted, suggested that about 350,000 African savannah elephants remain alive. This is down by 140,000 since 2007. The census, conducted by a team led by Mike Chase, an ecologist based in Botswana, and paid for by Paul Allen, one of...