The reasons are endless, these are just a few of them.
When you visit the elephants of Hope, Maine you don’t just see elephants, you learn about them. So, I asked some people after their tours why they think elephants should stick around. Here are just some of the reasons:
1. “They are highly evolved to overcome all predators but us.”
This is Dr. Jim Laurita, the co-founder and elephant manager at Hope Elephants. He asserts that, as the sole predator of elephants with the ability to wipe them out without much thought, “we have a special responsibility to them.”
2. “Elephants are special and have amazing trunks.”
They do! Their trunks have over 40K muscles, are used as a nose, an arm and even have a little finger at the end to grab things. African elephants have two fingers while Asian elephants have one.
3. “For the Elephant’s families and friends (other elephants) :)”
“Because they’ve evolved their basic needs,” Dr. Laurita states, “they’ve become complex and so they really are animals who understand society, love, things that are beyond even your dog.”
4. “I’d want to be preserved (they’re empathetic).”
Elephants are known to be extremely empathetic. They are known to mourn and bury their dead and comfort each other if they are in distress. In one of the talks at Hope, they recount that a herd has a hard time surviving once the matriarch is killed by poachers since their grief makes them inconsolable.
5. “Because they are a keystone species.”
This is Tyler Lerner, an intern for Hope. An emphasis of the talks is about the keystone species: As Dr. Laurita says, “When you have a long-standing successful species like the elephant, they’re called a keystone species because all the other animals around them depend on them because they are like a rock, they’re going to be there, and they’re always going to be there except if they’re not.”
6. “For the future, so we have one.”
The loss of elephants is symptomatic of a greater issue of conservation that faces our world. Andrew Stewart, director at Hope Elephants states: “I do look at it as sort of dominos, and elephants being integral to conservation not just an ecosystem….if you aren’t doing it for an elephant, you’re not going to do it for a groundhog.”
7. “Cancer Research.”
The tour at Hope also gives insight into how studying elephants may lead us to a cure for cancer. According to Peto’s Paradox, if every cell in a living being has some chance of becoming cancerous, large, long-living organisms should have a higher rate of cancer. Specifically, elephants should have a 96% risk for cancer but in reality they only have a 3% risk. Keeping them around may help us understand and beat cancer.
8. “…plus they’re adorable.”
9. “Elephants are beautiful, sensitive, intelligent, wonderful animals.”
10. “Female elephants are a good model for how human mothers should raise their children.”
Erin Doran, another Summer intern at Hope. Elephants are patient, understanding and empathetic, all important qualities in a mother.
11. “They are beautiful, intelligent, and silly.”
Certainly beautiful and intelligent, Opal of the Hope elephants is particularly mischievous and silly; she’ll often put Rosie’s hay in the one place she can’t reach it: her back.
12. “1. I believe that it is not up to me to decide whether or not they should persist. They have that right on their own. 2. They are majestic and wise creatures and not our slaves.”
13. “They are amazing mothers, aunts and sisters.”
Elephants run a matriarchal society, leading a great example to females everywhere. Captive elephant births have been increasingly successful when “they switched to having an older female in there who had given birth before in there with [the soon-to-be] mother,” says Stewart. That’s some strong sisterhood right there!
14. “Elephants need to be here to teach humans the true meaning of humanity, companionship, trust and friendship…we can learn from them…”
15. “They are strong, gentle, and sensitive. Everything I look for in a man. :)”
Elephants are also great communicators: they have languages beyond what we can hear as they can communicate through their footsteps. It’s so complex that elephants can tell just by the vibrations if they know the elephant who sent them.
16. “Because they are giant, majestic, and goof balls. They’re like people!”
17. “Their eyes.”
Sometimes it takes looking into an animal’s eyes to see just how complex they are.
18. “They bring joy, peace, education, and awareness to humanity and the earth.”
19. “A loss of elephants would be a brain drain!”
Neil Delehey, the vet-tech at Hope. Dr. Laurita also states, “When the elephant goes, everybody goes.”
20. “By knocking down trees, they maintain the grasslands in Africa!”
This is Katie Fischbach, an intern at Hope. Elephants knock down trees in the grassland, leaving a shrub that a lion uses to hide behind to hunt. “Without the shrub the lion can’t hunt properly,” says Dr. Laurita and the rest of the ecosystem is thrown off.
21. “Because they’re sentient.”
Elephants are known to be able to recognize themselves. Scientist tested this by teaching the elephants to point to an “X”. They then put an “X ” on her forehead and put her in front of mirror. The elephant touched the “X”. When they switched the X to the other elephant’s head, the elephant touched her friend.
22. “They are totally unique and incredibly important to biodiversity (AND WAY COOL!)”
They are responsible for the spreading of over 600 plants. A domino effect means that “if the elephants are taken out of the equation then the acacia tree can’t propagate, the dung beetle dies off, and all these interactions that depend on the elephant die off also. So, when you take them out of the equation, you’re not just killing them, you’re killing thousands of other species so it makes them, even scientifically more important beyond the fact that they understand love on a complex level, like a person, or other primates, or cetaceans.”-Dr. Laurita
23. “Elephants are amazing for infinite reasons! And they are essential for infinite reasons! Please help save them!”
To visit, learn, or donate to the elephants visit Hope Elephants.
All photos by Chelsea Marshall for BuzzFeed