Houston Zoo on mission to educate public about endangered elephants

The Houston Zoo celebrated World Elephant Day on Tuesday, a time for everyone to appreciate the large, gentle creatures that are slowly disappearing from the wild.

Protecting the elephants

HOUSTON — The Houston Zoo celebrated World Elephant Day on Tuesday, a time for everyone to appreciate the large, gentle creatures that are slowly disappearing from the wild.

"We want people to realize that there aren't that many of them left in the wild. And if we want to see these, if we want our kids to see these elephants when they grow up, then we need to do something about it," said Daryl Hoffman, Curator of Large Animals at the Houston Zoo.

More specifically, there are only 35,000 Asian elephants and 600,000 African elephants left in the wild compared with 1.5m African elephants a little over a decade ago. Populations have been dwindling over the years, in part, from war, human population growth, agriculture and poaching.

"When you're buying ivory jewelry, it is basically a dead elephant that you're wearing," said Renee Bumpun, Conservation Programs Manager at the Houston Zoo.

The demand for ivory has grown so much, 96 elephants are killed for their ivory tusks each day.

"Educating us and letting us know what's going on with them and it lets us appreciate what we have left," said zoo visitor Cheryl Carol.

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The Houston Zoo has raised $500,000 to protect the elephants.

"By providing equipment, providing wages for these people that are going out and risking their lives to protect the elephants every day," said Bumpun.

The goal is to try and stop the poachers from smuggling ivory to the U.S.

There have been several ivory busts at Houston airports.