Both forest and savanna elephants, thought by some biologists to be separate species, have been killed off by poachers across vast areas of Africa, though it is the forest elephant at this point that is being pushed to extinction. The continuing slaughter of these animals means more than the loss of an iconic species. Forest elephants play a crucial ecological role in the life of the forests they inhabit, places of incredible biodiversity and one of earth’s most important carbon-sequestering regions.
These elephants are accomplished gardeners on a grand scale. As they move through their forest home, creating a network of trails used by other animals, they eat and scatter large quantities of seeds over many miles. Sprouting in countless piles of dung, new trees keep the forest healthy and contribute to the clean air we all like to breathe. Elephants also keep open salt-rich forest clearings that serve as giant salad bowls crucial for many animals, including gorillas.