African elephants have been a long-time part of the Plains family at the Indianapolis Zoo, and each individual has an impact that extends far beyond the city limits of Indianapolis. From our oldest elephant, Sophi to our youngest, Zahara, they are all ambassadors for this vulnerable species, raising awareness for the threats these gentle giants face in the wild.
Throughout Africa, elephants are a target for poachers because of their tusks. An average of 96 elephants are killed each day for their ivory tusks, which are illegally traded around the world. At the Zoo, we proudly support several conservation initiatives aimed at protecting African elephants, including the Mara Elephant Project.
The Mara Elephant Project is named after the Maasai Mara wildlife refuge in Kenya. The refuge is home to approximately 1,400 elephants who are at risk of poaching, a problem that could eliminate the entire elephant population in that area by 2030. The project uses innovative technology, community relationships, education endeavors and research to prevent poaching and promote the conservation of all African elephants.
While the project works with local law enforcement to deter poachers, a large part of its work focuses on research and monitoring. To learn more about the elephants in their area, scientists fit elephants with special collars that contain tracking devices to monitor their movements and study their patterns. Supported by a grant from the Indianapolis Zoo, the Mara Elephant Project successfully collared a bull elephant in the Mau Forest on July 20. The large male, whom researchers named Vasco, has since moved into an area of the forest where no collared elephants have traveled before, and the data scientists collect from Vasco can help them better understand how elephants use that area.
Half a world away from Africa, Central Indiana residents can also take action for elephant conservation. The demand for ivory products is what encourages illegal poaching, so by pledging never to purchase ivory products and supporting legislation that bans the trade of ivory, you can help save these magnificent animals.
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