According to Scientific American, 98% of forest elephants in the Democratic Republic of the Congo have been killed by poachers. If this wasn’t alarming enough, the damage to the ecosystem is awful too. Fruit bearing trees relied on the elephants for seed distribution. Now, over a dozen tree species are greatly endangered.
The trees feed insects, birds, bats, and other mammals like chimpanzees. Humans also rely on them for medicinal purposes.
Although there is hope artificial nurseries can save the trees from extinction, nothing can replace the special elephant-tree relationship that has existed for centuries. For example, seeds softened by elephants’ stomach acid germinate much faster. Studies also “found that 18 different elephant-dependent tree species…had dropped in productivity; 14 of those species were not producing enough new trees for to replace the old ones as they die off, a process known as self-replacement”.