Tourists, basketball players and dogs would seem to have little in common, but all three are helping to protect elephants from imminent extinction.
On this World Elephant Day, an estimated 420,000 elephants roam the African continent. In 1980, the elephant population there was around 1.2 million. As of now, ivory poachers kill 35,000 African elephants each year, often in bloody massacres that leave entire herds decimated.
"The level of killing is clearly not sustainable," Craig Sholley, vice president of the African Wildlife Foundation, told Discovery News. "Unless we act quickly and forcefully, elephants in the wild could go extinct in our lifetime. That would be a grave loss."
Three species of elephants are now recognized: African forest elephants, African savannah elephants and Asian elephants. The latter only consist of about 40,000-50,000 individuals. All three types are targets of poachers.
Ivory symbolizes prestige and wealth in Asian countries, where demand for the hard, white material continues to grow.