Around the world, elephants are facing serious trouble. An estimated 35,000 African elephants are killed each year for their tusks, fueling an illegal ivory market and rapidly driving the world's largest land animal toward extinction. In Asia, it's even more dire — only about 40,000 to 50,000 Asian elephants total remain, living in fragmented populations from India to Borneo.
On World Elephant Day, Aug. 12, here are four ways to make a difference.
1. Urge companies to commit to deforestation-free palm oil.
Palm oil is the world's most popular vegetable oil, used in everyday products like toothpaste, chocolate bars and lipstick. When tropical habitats are destroyed to produce it, Asian elephants and many other species can be left homeless. The Oregon Zoo's own Chendra was orphaned this way. Click here to let companies know the use of deforestation-free palm oil is important to elephants and important to you.
2. Look for the FSC-certified logo.
Whether you're purchasing a desk, printer paper or napkins, look for the Forest Stewardship Council label to help ensure your wood product is "friendly" to elephants and the forests they inhabit.
3. Add to the zoo's Asian elephant conservation endowment.
In 2016, the zoo earmarked $1 million to establish a permanent, self-sustaining source of funds specifically dedicated to helping Asian elephants. To contribute or learn about other ways to get involved, call 503-914-6029.
4. Spread the word.
Once you've taken action, let people know. Talk to your friends and reach out to your social media networks. Use the hashtag #WorldElephantDay, and let people know why we should help as well as how we can.
The Oregon Zoo is recognized worldwide for its Asian elephant program, which has spanned more than 60 years. Considered highly endangered in their range countries, Asian elephants are threatened by habitat loss, conflict with humans and disease. Through the International Elephant Foundation and the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, the zoo supports a broad range of elephant conservation efforts to help wild elephants.