While elephants may be some of the most awe-inspiring animals around, they face an uncertain future. Elephants, which are the largest living land animals, must confront threats from habitat loss and degradation and poaching. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species currently lists Asian elephants (Elephas maximus) as "endangered," while African elephants (Loxodonta africana) are presently listed as "vulnerable."
Despite efforts to combat illegal poaching, the ivory trade still threatens the world's elephants. A recent documentary from Discovery Channel found that elephant ivory was readily available to an undercover Chinese buyer in a market in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Earlier this year, a senior official with the Wildlife Conservation Society said that around 5,000 elephants have been killed around the Nouabale Ndoki National Park in the Republic of Congo in the past five years, reported the Associated Press.
Elephants in Asia also threatened by humans. A Sumatran elephant was found poisoned in western Indonesia in May, likely killed by villagers trying to protect their crops. According to AP, "Fewer than 3,000 Sumatran elephants are left in the wild and environmentalists warn that they could be extinct within three decades unless steps are taken to protect them."
Even elephants in zoos may face threats to their well-being. A recent lawsuit in California alleges that the LA Zoo's 27-year-old elephant, Billy, is overweight, depressed and sexually frustrated. City attorneys argued that the zoo's elephants are, in fact, pampered.
Below, check out some of our favorite elephant pictures.