Most of us humans have at least a small fascination with elephants. And most of us know that forest-dwelling elephants need forests. I bet what a lot of people don’t know is that forests need elephants.
Due to their Inefficient Digestive Systems (IDS) *TM, elephants only digest around 40-something percent of what they eat. The rest gets dumped out the opposite ends of their bodies, if you get my gist. Having personally dealt with this end product, so to speak, I can attest to the fact that the matter that they have put into their chewing ends comes out darned near as fresh as when it went in. In other words, seeds from the plants they have eaten remain pretty much intact and are deposited wherever the elephants go, in nice tidy fertilized packages, ready to grow again.
Nature plays some pretty good jokes at times – the platypus being a fine example. A furry duck-billed, egg-laying, poisonous-spurred mammalian little beastie that defies all logic as we see it. But nature knows exactly what it’s doing. And that includes how it put elephants together.
Although we tend to regard elephants as ponderous and slow, only slightly faster than your average tortoise on a good day, they can actually move pretty fast and tend to cover a lot of miles over the span of a day. So as a Seed-Dispersal Gadget (SDG) they do a pretty nice job.
Another thing they do is break trees, lots of trees, with gay abandon. Which is why they’re not usually invited into orchards. But in a forest, this is a good thing. It creates clearings, letting light in and ensuring that no one species of flora dominates the area. And while these ponderous pachyderms are rampaging about breaking trees into smaller units, fruit, foliage and seeds are shaken onto the ground, in turn feeding smaller animals that otherwise wouldn’t be able to reach them. Which I dare say makes them pretty popular amongst deer, wild pigs, lazy baboons and sundry other fauna. Picture it if you will:
Baboon 1: “I say old chap, who’s coming to the forest party later?”
Baboon 2: “Let me see, Wicked Willis and his Warthog Wetinue, Dallas Deer and the Antlerheads, oh and Orang and the Utans have RSVP’d also.”
Baboon 1: “Did you invite Pachy Dermis and the Phorest Phellers? You know they’re always onto it with the catering.”
Baboon 2: “Of course I did – wouldn’t be a party without them would it? I’m not as green as I am cabbage-looking, old chap!”
Elephants are also quite popular at waterholes in times of drought. While having a right royal dig-around with their feet, trunks and tusks to gain better access to the wet stuff, they widen and deepen the waterholes, once again benefitting those around them. So while they’re usually passed over when the invites are sent out to orchard soirees, they’re always at the top of the wildlife party invitation lists.
The reason I’m raving on about this is that there’s a bit of bother going on out there in forests of South East Asia. People are stealing the trees while we’re not looking. Literally. There’s a fine example of it in this post (see below) by Lek Chailert, founder of Elephant Nature Park and Save Elephant Foundation – Projects, who are instrumental in starting up Elephant Sanctuary – Cambodia amongst other things. In this article, Lek describes coming across people literally poaching and milling a huge tree within the sanctuary, right under the noses of the owners of the land, the cheeky buggers. Please read it – it really shows what she’s up against and has been for a long time.
If you poke around the interweb a bit, you’ll find plenty of information on the horrible reality of the disappearing forests of Southeast Asia. In fact, it’s happening so fast that there’s a real danger of the majority of Cambodia’s forests almost disappearing within the next five years or so. Forests in the nearby countries are threatened with similar fates. Here’s an article to get you going:
While you may be wondering why you should give a damn about this as it’s not happening in your own back yard, if you think about it, the forests are the lungs of the earth. Without forests, we all stop breathing. So even if the subject of disappearing habitats and animals species doesn’t ring your bells, I imagine that breathing is something you’re very fond of doing. Thus it’s in your best interests as much as anybody’s to become a bit more aware of the plight of the earth’s forests and to realize that somebody else’s backyard is ultimately connected to yours, and consequently, to your own respiratory system.
In the spirit of remaining upright by inhaling and exhaling, as well as for the benefit of forests, elephants, lazy baboons and wildlife parties, please read the above and other articles, become more informed, and spread information around amongst other oxygen dependant types.
Pachy Dermis and the Phorest Phellers thank you.