As we consider all the things we are grateful for this Thanksgiving, let’s not forget the majestic elephant. With the species in peril of extinction in only a decade, here’s a reminder of the many reasons we are thankful for their presence and why we need to safeguard their survival for future generations:

1. Elephants are highly social and intelligent animals who have life spans similar to humans. They form strong family bonds led by matriarchs and show feelings of sadness and an understanding of mortality by handling the bones and tusks of elephants who have been killed.

2. Because elephants are so large and roam so widely, they are an integral part of the overall ecosystem, and their activities contribute to a healthy and diverse environment.

3. They pull down trees and thorny bushes, which helps create grasslands for other animals to survive.

4. Many plant species rely on elephants to disperse their seeds far and wide.

5. In dry terrain, elephants help provide water for other animals by digging waterholes in dry riverbeds and creating water holes with their large foot prints that then collect rain.

6. They create salt licks that are rich in nutrients for other animals.

7. Elephants forge trails through vegetation that acts as fire breaks and water run offs. Humans and other animals depend on the openings created in the forest and brush.

8. Elephant poop, believe it or not, is a very important resource. Baboons and birds pick through dung for undigested seeds and spread them throughout the land, and dung beetles reproduce in it. Elephant dung also contributes to nutrient-filled soil in which humans can plant crops.

Madeline Bakar and Karen Bakar