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Forest elephants and bongo antelope at Dzanga Bai in the Central African Republic. © Elephant Listening Project

Forest elephants are a keystone species in the Central African rainforests where they reside and perform many ecological services that are vital for the ecosystems’ proper functioning¹. The recent decline in elephant populations, caused by poaching, may have cascading consequences that could reshape the forests’ structure and adversely impact the countless other species they share these biodiversity hotspots with. A recent study by Dr. John Poulson of Duke University analyzed the various local and global ramifications of the forest elephant’s increasingly threatened status¹.

One of the most important services elephants provide is seed dispersal. After elephants consume fruits and berries they transport their seeds over large distances and then deposit them in new locations together with a supply of dung that serves as excellent fertilizer¹. Other species also disperse seeds but elephants are unique as they transport seeds the farthest², consume the most seeds, and consume a wider variety of seeds by comparison to other rainforest animals³. The latter is largely because they can eat fruits with tough coverings and robust chemical defenses which are inaccessible to most other species. Plant species which produce such fruits primarily rely on large herbivores, like elephants, for reproduction⁴. …

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Shimon Shuchat

Writer for Elephant Listening Project

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