Elephants & Hippos
The largest land mammals in the world, elephants, naturally, have equally large home ranges. African forest elephant can range more than 772 square miles, and Asian elephants can occupy a territory of up to 40 square miles. Not surprisingly, both species are endangered. As the human footprint has grown larger, elephant habitats have shrunk. They have been converted into farmland or deforested as industrial logging and mining spreads, and as roads and settlements encroach deeper into the forest.
The common hippopotamus follows elephants and the white rhino as Africa’s third largest land mammal. It lives in rivers, lakes, and muddy wallows throughout the continent. Hippo habitat has greatly diminished over the past 200 years, and hunting has further reduced hippo numbers, primarily due to poaching for meat and the ivory contained in the animals' massive teeth and tusks.
WCS is working throughout elephant habitats on population monitoring and management. We are also finding novel approaches to reduce human-elephant and human-hippo conflict, so that we may ensure the future of these beloved giants.
Forest elephants are much smaller than African bush elephants, with straighter, slimmer tusks. These elephants range throughout western and central Africa, a region rife with political instability and poverty.
Asian elephants were historically found over three and a half
million square miles of their namesake continent, but are now extinct in West Asia, Java, and most of
China, and survive only in isolated pockets scattered across grasslands and
tropical forests in thirteen Asian countries.
Habitat for the common hippo, and its pygmy cousin, has greatly diminished over the last 200 years, and the ivory within the hippo's teeth and tusks increases their risk of being hunted. Possibly the most dangerous animal in Africa, these large herbivores are very territorial, and faster than they look.
The largest land mammal, the African savannah elephant is a big contributor to the overall health of Africa's grassland ecosystems.
From the Newsroom
African elephants may have just received a huge, much-needed boost from Asia. The Chinese government has announced plans to cease the processing and domestic sale of ivory.
A recent survey showed a dramatic drop in elephant populations, the Mozambique government said today. At the hands of criminal gangs, the total number of animals is estimated to have fallen 48 percent, from just over 20,000 to around 10,300.
In their New York Times op-ed about the plight of elephants, WCS conservationists Samantha Strindberg and Fiona Maisels conclude: "If we do not act, we will have to shamefully admit to our children that we stood by as elephants were driven out of existence."
Poachers target elephants for their tusks, which they illegally sell for profit. Although demand is highest in China and Japan, a recent seizure in New York City serves as a stark reminder that no place is immune from the illegal wildlife trade.
WCS conducts the first landscape-wide survey of how land-use affects chimpanzees, gorillas, and forest elephants.