I love elephants. I’m in awe of their huge size, their intelligence, their community spirit, their fierceness, their grace, their extreme care for each other, their strength, their resolve, their beauty, their elephant-ness.
But I’m also very scared. Scared that one day, soon, too soon, there will be only a handful of elephants left… And that those last few elephants will then be killed by humans or die off without their population recovering…
And then there will be no more elephants. Ever.
No elephants? How could that be?
The statistics on elephant deaths, mainly due to poaching for their tusks and habitat loss, are terrifying. For example, in the 9 years up to 2011, around 62% of the world’s elephant population was lost.
From 2003 onwards, elephants have been killed faster than they can reproduce (in other words, fewer animals are being born than are dying). In fact, on average poachers kill African Elephants every 15 minutes.
Mathematically and tragically, this means elephants will one day be no more. Except perhaps for some sad individuals behind bars in zoos.
That is, unless the poaching, habitat loss, hunting and kidnapping reduces or stops altogether.
But first, why do elephants matter?
Elephants matter because they are part of the great web of life. Okay, so people natter on about ecology etc, but what have elephants actually got to do with anything?
Elephants are essential ‘processors’ in forest and savannah landscapes, consuming, moving and producing organic matter (for example, leaves, grasses, roots and branches are eaten, moved and eventually turned into poo, which in turn, provides food and nourishment for others). Read more about how essential they are to nature (scroll down to the ‘Why They Matter’ section).
Think of it like this. Your body is an ecosystem, in the sense that there are lots of parts and organic material which interact in a very finely tuned, complex way to keep you alive. If we were to remove your liver tomorrow, you might survive for a short while with the help of doctors, but you would be very unhealthy and ultimately you would probably die.
Like your liver is essential for your body to be alive and thrive, elephants are a necessary part of the vast eco-web of life across this planet. If they are killed off, the important jobs they do in keeping life ticking along can’t really be filled by anything else.
And so the plants and other animals that rely on elephants in their environment will also suffer and some will probably die off. The intricate balance of oxygen and carbon dioxide between plants and animals, and on which you rely in order to be able to take every breath, will also be affected. As will the chemistry of the soil and water, and the symbiotic proportions of plants and animals.
Elephants alone are not responsible for all of this. We are all part of it and all necessary for life together.
Elephants also matter because they’re beings on this planet.
Because they’re alive. Because they’re amazing and wonderful. And because all living things matter. Like you and me.
What can you do to help elephants?
Even if you live far away from any elephants, there are lots of things you can do to help:
Donate to environmental charities which take action to save elephants from poaching, hunting and habitat loss.
Sign petitions to governments and environmental authorities to do more to stop ivory trade, poaching and hunting. Speak up for elephants by speaking out against poaching, hunting and animal cruelty whenever you can.
Share information, videos and pictures about elephants online. Make people aware, so that they in turn also take action to help elephants.
Don’t support tourist attractions like zoos, elephant rides and circuses, where elephants are exploited and kept confined. Elephants are usually beaten and tortured from a young age in these situations to make them ‘tame’ enough for interactions with humans. Did you know that over 70% of elephants in zoos in Europe were caught as babies in the wild and taken away from their mothers and herds to live the rest of their lives in captivity?
Support, visit and donate to wild animal sanctuaries, who are committed to providing better lives for ophaned elephants and elephants rescued from zoos or circuses, as well as wildlife reserves who let elephants and other animals roam free in natural landscapes, as they are meant to.
Explore lots of elephant-related topics in my free ‘Elephant Matters’ eco-worksheet, yours to download and print as you need:
It’s not news. Plastics are everywhere – all around us, as waste and litter, and in our minds, thanks to lots of recent plastic pollution awareness campaigns.
And we’re all trying to reduce, reuse and recycle our plastic bottles and other plastics responsibly, so less rubbish ends up lying around or ending up in the oceans.
What more can be done?
Something simply really: Prep your plastics!
What does ‘Prep your Plastics’ mean?
Let’s think, for a moment, about the wildlife whose homes are in the places our rubbish ends up.
Large and small critters suffer (see these examples in an article from Huffington Post) – because we don’t always consider our fellow creatures when we throw stuff away or recycle it.
Even the journey to the recycling plant could mean garbage blows away or falls off the recycling trucks and ends up harming animals.
So how do we prep our plastic waste and recycling?
The main plastic culprits are anything we throw away that has small rings, hoops or parts that could get caught around a bird’s foot, a hedgehog’s body, a fish’s fin or a turtle’s mouth, as well as anything long or sharp like plastic straws.
So get out some scissors and cut open any plastic hoops or enclosed parts, and cut shorter any long, jabbing plastics before disposing them in the recycling or rubbish bins.
Consider reusing plastic bags, bottles and containers, rather than tossing them into waste bins.
Small things you do will make a difference!
Margaret Mead, a famous anthropologist, said:
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful [people] can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
Why not explore the concept of plastic pollution further with our Planet Plastic Worksheet? Get if free here.
What’s your favourite tip on reusing/reducing/recycling or prepping plastics? Write your reply below this post.
Photo of hedgehog caught in plastic rings from https://www.countrylife.co.uk/country-life/country-life-litter-campaign-71195 (Image credits – Creator: Ann & Steve Toon Credit: 1 Copyright: Ann & Steve Toon / naturepl.com)
Margaret Mead quote from http://www.interculturalstudies.org/faq.html#quote (used with permission)
Photos of rubbish bundle, seagull and butterflies from pixabay.com
Plastic is everywhere – so much so, that we might as well give Planet Earth a new name: “Planet Plastic”.
Explore the environmental issues of plastic waste, pollution and solutions in a 2-page worksheet I created for you.
It’s suitable for anyone aged 9-14 years or older, and it’s best to use it with someone else, perhaps a teacher or parent or in a group, so you can benefit from discussion, research and debate of the topics it covers.
This worksheet has lots of facts, website links, questions and activities to help you delve into and investigate the topics further.
The worksheet is similar in style to WonderWorksheets set B – a complete booklet of interactive worksheets exploring all sorts of environmental issues and English literacy skills, available free. Within them, worksheet 3b covers some further facts and activities on plastics.
Have fun thinking, exploring and researching how to save planet Earth! 🙂
Plastic that’s been designed to be used once only, then thrown away.
What a waste!
We all know it’s a huge problem.
Billions of tons of waste plastic lies about as litter, clogs up the oceans, and animals get caught and injured or killed by it.
Plus plastic is made from fossil fuels (oil) and takes decades or centuries to decompose…
And even then, it doesn’t fully decompose – it simply breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces until we have plastic micro-particles in the soil, water, air, and inside animals and humans!
Examples of single-use plastic are everywhere, in lots of things we buy everyday.
How many of these do you use?
Plastic water bottles and disposable cups for coffee, soft drinks or water,
Cling film or plastic wrappings around fresh fruit and vegetables or prepared foods like fresh pizza,
Plastic packaging like six-pack rings for packs of canned drinks, or sealed around other packaging like teabag boxes,
Plastic straws and plastic spoons, knives and forks,
Plastic containers like yoghurt pots, laundry liquid bottles, toiletry tubes and bottles, and take-away/fast food containers,
And of course – plastic bags like supermarket bags, carrier bags or shopping bags from stores.
So what can we do about it?
Here’s 5 things you can do right now, to reduce your “plastic footprint” on planet Earth:
We can’t always help buying plastic packaging for some things. So if you do, save the plastic bags or wraps. Then wash them if necessary and make sure to use them again.
Sometimes when you’re out, you can’t find a recycling bin for your waste. Take it back home and recycle it. Don’t put recyclable plastic waste into a normal rubbish/garbage bin, because it’ll unnecessarily end up in landfill, around an animal’s neck, or in the oceans.
Plan ahead – take a reusable cup and your own set of reusable cutlery, including a reusable straw, with you.
Use your own reusable fabric shopping bags (even reusable plastic shopping bags can end up as waste).
Think of our wildlife – cut plastic six-pack rings, tear open plastic bags, cut straws up and open or tear up any packaging that might get caught around a bird’s foot, a fox’s head, a sea turtle’s flipper or a seal’s nose.
When you’re paying for your food and groceries, make a comment to the staff, talk to fellow shoppers, or complain to managers about all the unnecessary plastic packaging.
Some people even unwrap their food and groceries while still in the store, and leave their plastic waste there – what better way to get the large supermarkets talking to manufacturers about reducing excess plastic?
Say no in restaurants and coffee shops – is it really necessary to have a plastic lid and plastic straw with your drink?
When you’re out and about, be seen using your own reusable coffee cup, recycled water bottle, paper straw and washable cutlery – and talk to others about it. Many coffee shops offer a discount if you use your own mug or cup rather than one of theirs, so it’ll save you money too.
It’s a challenge, but worth it.
Challenge yourself and your family and friends to use less single-use plastic.
Photo of Mallard duck with plastic by Ian Kirk from Broadstone, Dorset, UK (Please take your litter home!Uploaded by Foerster) [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.
Photo of litter in pond by Hagerty Ryan, USFWS of Pixnio.com.
Photo of drinks glasses with reusable straws by StockSnap of Pixabay.com.
Photo of planet Earth by NASA/Apollo 17 crew; taken by either Harrison Schmitt or Ron Evans [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.
Infographic “Plastic Does Not Go Away” from https://d3n8a8pro7vhmx.cloudfront.net/boomerangalliance/pages/231/attachments/original/1464851954/MicroPlastic-Infographic-Final-2016.jpg?1464851954.
It’s purposely geared towards learning and doing – especially around environmental issues.
Not only are there information, guidance and websites included at the back of the book, to feed and nurture curiosity, but there are also separate WonderWorksheets (essentially these are worksheets, but with added value) to take it all further.
WonderWorksheets include reading comprehension-style questions based on extracts from the story, with space for children to write their answers and notes, as well as research and discussion ideas, website links, fiction and non-fiction writing activities, and SPaG (spelling, punctuation and grammar) quizzes.
For each chapter of the story, there are four A4 pages of WonderWorksheets, giving you and your children ample exploration and literacy activities once you’ve read the book, or as you read each chapter.
Perfect for teachers, parents, homeschoolers, clubs, private tutors….