By day, Ron Chandler works as the academic programs liaison at the University of Florida’s Office of Sustainability. But in his spare time, he leads the Conservation Initiative for the Asian Elephant, a not-for-profit group he co-founded in 2000. On World Elephant Day, he shared some reasons to care about elephants and how to help this endangered species survive.
They’re smarter than you think
They're landscape architects
Elephants use their amazing sense of smell to find water, even when it’s hidden underground. In a matter of hours, they can fell trees and move earth to create a lake that other animals in the area use for food and water. “They’re a keystone species," Chandler said. "If you take elephants out of the environment, the overall ecology changes so drastically that other species begin to collapse.”
People could learn a few things from elephants
“They’re masters of sustainability, they’re peaceful, they’re willing to be calm and collected but willing to stand up and take charge when necessary. They have a profound dignity about them,” said Chandler, who first saw elephants in the wild in 1998, when he quit his job in hydrology and went to Africa to study them in preparation for starting his organization.
To help elephants, read product labels
Simple steps in your daily life can make a big difference to the survival of wild elephants, Chandler says. Check labels on food and beauty products to avoid palm oil, which destroys the habitat of elephants and other endangered species. You can also avoid buying souvenirs, antiques or collectibles that might be made of ivory, either at home or on vacation.