Forest elephant helps in climate protection and semen transport. free Press

Forest elephant helps in climate protection and semen transport.  free Press

Kinshasa (DPA) – Who would have thought that forest elephants have secret heroes? Threatened gray giants are known for their mud baths, their exquisite memories, and their ability to mourn the deceased conspirators.

Hardly anyone knows that animals also play a role in the fight against the climate crisis.

Forest elephants (Loxodonta cyclotis), which live in the rainforests of Central and West Africa, strengthen biodiversity and prompt tropical forest to store more carbon and thereby bind carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere. are, explains Fabio Berzaghi, researcher in the laboratory. Climate and Environmental Sciences (LSCE-CEA) in France for World Elephant Day on 12 August by the German Press Agency.

Animal dung contains the seeds of trees and shrubs, which are distributed over great distances. Fertilizer is made for the forest floor as well as food and shelter for many animal species. In addition, pachyderms free the forests from overgrown shrubs. As Barzaghi says, the remaining trees benefit from more space and better access to water and light, which has a positive effect on their growth.

The bigger a tree is, the more CO2 it can bind and produce oxygen. “Elephants help keep African tropical forests healthy,” Barzaghi says. An analysis by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) (“The Secret Work of Elephants”) clearly showed this. According to this, forest elephants help shape an ecosystem that supports large, slow-growing deciduous trees that produce a lot of oxygen.

If forest elephants go extinct, the rainforests of central Africa are at risk of losing nearly three billion tons of carbon, researchers have warned. Conversely, an improvement in population could lead to a large increase in the amount of carbon dioxide consumed, Barzaghi says. But how long thick-skinned landscape gardeners can contribute to climate protection is questionable.

Africa’s forest elephants are currently more endangered than ever: according to the animal welfare organization Future for Elephants, only 35,000 to 40,000 of them remain. The organization puts the total number of African elephants at around 350,000; In 1970 there were about two million.

“If elephants went extinct, it would have a fatal impact on the stability of the entire ecosystem,” says Heike Henderson, board member of Future for Elephants. The animals are threatened for several reasons: habitat loss including overcrowding of the region’s growing population, deforestation, poaching, and the illegal trade in ivory.

In 2019, seizures of 42.5 tonnes of African ivory were reported, a 30 percent increase from the previous year, species conservation organization TRAFFIC reported. The main sales markets are in Asia, but ivory is also illegally smuggled through Germany. In Cottbus, for example, a criminal was convicted of trading 1.2 tons of ivory in late 2020.

In March, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) put the wild elephant on the Red List of Threatened Species in the “critically endangered” category, the highest of the three threatened levels. Some of the more common savannah elephants were classified as “critically endangered” in the second highest category. So far, the species have been treated together and are listed as “endangered” in the third category.

In the rainforests of the Democratic Republic of the Congo in central Africa, Adams Kasinga, head of conservation organization Conserve Congo, is fighting for the survival of the remaining forest elephants. Their 72-strong team is dedicated to finding and tracking poachers and traders round the clock. “We get new reports of poaching every day. Poaching is booming,” says Cassinga. Last week the Conservative Congo helped convict five ivory dealers. But overall, the losses outweighed the successes. “If nothing happens soon, we won’t have any forest elephants in a maximum of ten years.”

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