Nature Watch

Elephants – a species in crisis

‘The Great Elephant census showed an alarming 30 per cent decline of he savanna elephant population between 2007 and 2014 – primarily due to poaching.  While the response has been encouraging – including China’s aim to ban the illegal ivory trade this year – there is still much work to do. By any measure, time is short. Poachers kill another African elephant for its tusks every 15 minutes’. Paul G Allen – from a Guardian special report he helped to produce. As its editor, Bibi van der Zee said in it: ‘They like company. Elephants like to hang out – with their offspring, with their mates, even with us if we’re lucky. The communities that they choose to form when they are left in peace, are tight-knit, protective, founded on cooperation and mutual support. The more you find out about them the more you begin to understand that elephants are profoundly admirable.  And yet for thousands of years we’ve been killing them for their ivory, and now we are moving into their territories and building over their migratory routes. And we’re doing it at a rate that is getting faster and faster.  Extinction is a real possibility.  In the same report, Caitlin O’Connell lists reasons to save elephants, amongst which are:

  • Elephants may help us fight cancer – researchers recently discovered that elephants have evolved a superior DNA repair mechanism to get rid of cells that have cancer-causing mutations.  This could help scientists develop novel drugs to treat or even prevent cancer.
  • Elephants may teach us lessons about impaired hearing, ageing, fertility.
  • Elephants keep old-growth forests healthy.
  • Elephants are uncanny water diviners.
  • And, as Caitlin says: “Let’s face it, baby elephant are adorable.”

To find out more about elephant conservation visit theguardian.com/elephant-conservation.

And another species that is facing extinction is the bee

Pesticides have been blamed for the decline of bees; so too have mites, air pollution and monoculture farming.  But what it has really come down to, research have concluded, is a shortage of flowers.

Wildflowers are, we are told , are on the “verge of distinction”, with many of the rarer ones seriously declining due largely to areas of their countryside habitat being lost. Some are  now only found on the grass verges of our roads and lanes which Councils are being asked to take better care of to preserve them while farmers are also committing to protecting wild flowers on their land.

Caro Wilson has been photographing wild flowers. Below are some of her pictures. These are not (yet) on the endangered species list but could be.:


Thrift (Sea Pinks) and Squills with shells.


May Blossom (Blackthorn) and wild Cyclamen.

Some of the most important nectar plants that bees need include red clover, knapweed, bird’s-foot trefoil and brambles and dandelions (yes, those things we all try to eliminate from our gardens).  And, of course, gorse (see side bar):