Human Population

In a very real sense, the increase in human population is the number one wildlife conservation issue for the elephant, and for wildlife in general.  In just the past 100 years, the human population of Asia has gone from about 500 million to 2 billion.  By contrast, during that same century the population of Asian Elephants plummeted from about one half million to only forty thousand.  It is a simple equation:  more people has meant fewer elephants. 

Today there are about 20,000 elephants in India and in nearby countries on the Indian subcontinent.  And there are about 20,000 other elephants that can be found in areas ranging from Malaysia and Thailand in the southeast to the island of Sri Lanka in the west. 


Idealized geographic range of the Asian Elephant

Although 40,000 individuals is still a substantial number, and a number that could ideally make up a healthy population, many of the remaining elephants are unfortunately isolated in pockets of forest that are effectively cutoff from one another.  This is a real problem for a species whose nature is to travel extensively and which needs frequent intermixing across groups for healthy breeding. 


Actual distribution of the Asian Elephant (2001)

People who advocate a no-nonsense approach to wildlife conservation often argue that the most important thing we should do is to put our efforts into stabilizing the human population and steering our societies toward sustainable lifestyles.  Unless we accomplish those two goals, it is inevitable that elephants and all the other wild species of the world will be squeezed further and further toward extinction.  We will quote a field-biologist acquaintance of ours:  "If you're not working on human population control, you're not really working on wildlife conservation!"

 

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