Today, we celebrate World Elephant Day! Founded in 2012 with the aim of building global awareness around both the majesty and the precariousness of the future of the elephant, we couldn’t imagine a better day to share some information with you about this beloved animal – and its central place within the mission of our company.
The Asian elephant is the largest living land animal in Asia, and has sadly been included on the IUCN Red List as Endangered since 1986. Their population has been halved over the last three elephant generations (about 60-75 years). This makes them even more at risk than African elephants, as they hurtle towards extinction at a quicker pace than their African relatives. The main contributors to their decline are loss of habitat, habitat degradation, fragmentation, and poaching.
The potential loss of this animal from the earth is of great concern to us. Elephants are known to be one of the planet’s most intelligent animals, with a highly developed neocortex – putting them close to humans, great apes, and some dolphins, all of whom share traits of high intelligence, including mimicry, altruism, compassion, use of tools, and self-awareness.1 They are also scientifically proven to have famously incredible memories – hence the phrase “an elephant never forgets”!
And yet, we are watching them face a number of troubling factors. After identifying a key issue – tea production and agriculture that is problematic and injurious to elephant populations in India – we came together with the University of Montana, local communities, and the Wildlife Friendly Enterprise Network to put standards in place for a certification process that ensures the elephant safety and sustainability of tea practices across tea-growing regions.
There are 570 million farms worldwide, with 74% of those in Asia – and the dire need to develop sustainable agricultural systems that are safe for threatened wildlife species has never been clearer. Specifically, tea farming is a particularly dangerous agriculture to elephants, as it now dominates the Asian elephant ranges in northeast India – and tea consumption, as the world’s most consumed beverage after water, shows no sign of slowing down. The locations of these tea gardens and farms – and therefore, their agricultural workers, who make up nearly 1/7 of the entire earth’s population – are right in the middle of the routes of elephants as they transit between forest patches, putting humans directly adjacent to or overlapping with the traversing Asian elephant herds.
Our goal at Elephant Origins is to reduce these risks to both humans and elephants, and conserve these magnificent herbivores with every cup. By partnering with farmers across these impacted tea regions, we ensure that every handplucked tea leaf was grown and produced in an elephant-safe, sustainability compliant way. Playing our part in wild elephant conversation is key to our mission and our raison d’etre, and with every purchase, you too can support the longevity and protection of the elephant. We’ll raise a teacup to drink to that!