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National Elephant Appreciation Day

In 1970, when Wayne Hepburn's daughter, Lisa, was a child, she gave him a paperweight that had a base with a parade of elephants around it. He became interested in elephants and kept buying elephant figurines and other paraphernalia, learning more about elephants, and riding elephants. By the time Hepburn created Elephant Appreciation Day in 1996, he had thousands of elephant artifacts: figurines, books, toys, clothing items, jewelry, art, and music boxes.

Hepburn said of elephants, "you know they're endangered…the more people know about them, the more they'll appreciate them." National Elephant Appreciation Day was declared and sponsored by the now-defunct WildHeart® Productions, a part of Mission Media, a digital print publisher of graphics owned by the Hepburn family. For a time, Hepburn had a webpage called Elephanteria on his WildHeart® Productions website, which had everything from silly to serious elephant information. According to Hepburn, National Elephant Appreciation Day "has no central event. It is to be observed and enjoyed by anyone anywhere on a local level." Celebrations are often held at zoos. Some stores run discounts on elephant figurines on the day.

According to Hepburn and WildHeart® Productions, National Elephant Day was declared to celebrate the elephant because it:

  • is the largest land mammal of our era.
  • is unique among mammals for its trunk.
  • is the noblest of beasts on Earth.
  • is most undeservedly threatened with extinction.
  • has been man's benefactor in numerous ways throughout history.
  • is entertaining and amusing.
  • is gentle and friendly.
  • contributes to ecosystem development and maintenance.
  • generally deserves to be appreciated and upheld as an example of courage, strength, self-reliance, patience, persistence, and general high quality of being.

It has long been believed that there are two species of elephants: African elephants and Asian elephants. There are two different types of African elephants, the forest and savanna (bush), which are now viewed as being their own distinct species, bringing the number of elephant species to three. There are about 400,000 African elephants worldwide, and they are listed as being vulnerable by the IUCN Red List of threatened species. They are the world's largest land animals, weighing up to 22,000 pounds. With about 40,000 worldwide, the Asian elephant is listed as endangered. They are currently in 13 countries, and over the past half-century, their range has shrunk by 70%. One out of every three Asian elephants is captive. At the beginning of the twentieth century, there were more than 100,000 Asian elephants in Thailand, but today there are less than 4,000. They are the second largest land animal, weighing up to 10,000 pounds.

Escalation of habitat loss, poaching, human-elephant conflict, and mistreatment in captivity are some threats elephants face. Elephant conservation organizations focus on the protection of wild elephants, strengthening enforcement policies that work to prevent illegal poaching and ivory trading, conserving elephant habitats, improving treatment for captive elephants, and reintroduction of elephants into natural, protected sanctuaries. With such threats and such promising modes for combating them—as well as the many reasons to celebrate elephants listed above—there is much to appreciate about elephants today.

How to Observe National Elephant Appreciation Day

There are numerous ways to appreciate and celebrate elephants today:

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