World Elephant Day Is August 12, And Here Are 4 Things You Need To Know About This Important Day Of Awareness

Elephants are super smart and empathic creatures. (Don't believe me? Watch this video of an elephant drawing a self-portrait. No seriously — watch it.) August 12 is World Elephant Day, and while this is certainly a day to celebrate elephants in all their adorable glory, today also aims to bring awareness to the incredible dangers elephants face, like poaching and captivity. I have to admit, prior to World Elephant Day, my knowledge of elephants was pretty limited — I've seen the movie Dumbo, I know that elephants like peanuts, and I knew that they were on the endangered species list. However, I didn't know what kind of hardships these beautiful animals faced on a daily basis, and how heartbreaking the situation really is.

According to the founders of World Elephant Day, there are two types of elephants in the world — Asian, and African. Over the past 50 years, the elephant range has shrunk by more than 50 percent. Today, there are only 40,000 Asian elephants and 400,000 African elephants remaining worldwide.

Due to threats to their natural habitats, poachers, and ivory trading, elephants are dying at a faster rate than ever before. But it's not all doom and gloom. Some initiatives, like World Elephant Day, are working to reverse this horrible trend by raising awareness and money to save elephants all around the world.

Here's everything you need to know about World Elephant Day.

What is World Elephant Day?

August 12 is World Elephant Day, a global holiday that aims to conserve and protect elephants, and to spread awareness about the critical threats they face. World Elephant Day is an international initiative co-founded by the Elephant Reintroduction Foundation, and is led by Patricia Sims, the producer and director of CanazWest Pictures Inc. It started in 2012 as a way to bring attention to the plights of elephants in the wild, and has since escalated to raise awareness on a mass scale. This year, the hashtag #WorldElephantDay instantly started trending on social media as thousands of people shared information on this endangered animal. People can also sign a petition pledging to "support a world that protects elephants, wildlife and their habitat" at WorldElephantDay.org.

Why should I care about World Elephant Day?

Elephants are adorable, that's why. But more importantly, it is estimated that one out of three Asian elephants are captive animals, and research has shown that captive elephants suffer long-term depression and drastically shortened life spans. There has been a recent escalation of illegal poaching, ivory trade, habitat loss, and human-elephant conflict and mistreatment in captivity. So, basically, humans suck.

What makes elephants so cool?

Uh, pretty much everything. For one thing, elephants are a lot like humans — not only are they extremely intelligent, they can feel things like grief when they lose a loved one, and they have been known to cry tears. Elephants also don't have any natural predators, which is why it's so sad to see these beautiful animals in danger.

How can I help?

The World Elephant Day website says that it's important for people to "experience elephants in non-exploitive and sustainable environments where elephants can thrive under care and protection."

You can also get involved in a number of ways:

  • Have a World Elephant Day party with your friends, and screen the Return to the Forest documentary. The award-winning film is about the successful reintroduction of Asian elephants into the wild in Thailand — and it's free to watch on YouTube!
  • Share the love on social media, and tell your friends how they can help elephants. Use the hashtag #WorldElephantDay to raise awareness.
  • Donate to one of the many organizations that work tirelessly to save elephants from poachers, and to release them from captivity.

Images: Getty Images; Giphy (4)