Threats to Wild Elephants
No room to roam:
The greatest threat to wild Asian elephants is habitat loss and fragmentation. Throughout the tropics, humans have cleared large areas of forest and have rapidly populated river valleys and plains. Elephants have been pushed into hilly landscapes and less suitable remnants of forest, but even these less accessible habitats are being assaulted by poachers, loggers, and developers.
Once-continuous habitat has become increasingly broken up by dams, tea and coffee plantations, roads, and railway lines. These developments obstruct the seasonal migrations of elephant clans. Habitat fragmentation also divides elephant populations into small, isolated groups, which are then at risk of inbreeding. Some biologists believe that there are no longer any wild Asian elephant populations large enough to avoid genetic deterioration over the long term.
Conflicts with humans:
When elephants stray out of the forest into settled areas, they sometimes destroy property, trample crops, and even kill people. Not infrequently, farmers respond with gunfire or poison.
The international ivory trade has contributed far more to the decline of African elephants than Asian ones over the last few decades. Still, the people of Asia have a 500-year tradition of ivory carving and often hunt males for their tusks.
Capture of young elephants:
Many young elephants are removed from the wild to supply tourist and entertainment industries. In the process, mothers and other females attempting to protect the young are killed. Many calves captured for such purposes are prematurely weaned, socially isolated or otherwise cruelly treated, and die before they reach age five.