Populations of some of the world’s largest wild animals are dwindling, raising the threat of an “empty landscape”, say scientists.

About 60% of giant herbivores - plant-eaters - including rhinos, elephants and gorillas, are at risk of extinction, according to research.

Analysis of 74 herbivore species, published in Science Advances, blamed poaching and habitat loss.

A previous study of large carnivores showed similar declines.

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That is where former U.S. Army officer turned anti poaching enforcer Kinessa Johnson steps in. Recently she joined the ranks of Veterans Empowered to Protect African Wildlife (“VETPAW”) as an anti-poaching advisor. Johnson and her fellow post-9/11 veterans train and support African anti-poaching rangers to prevent the extermination of keystone African wildlife, and the disastrous economic and environmental impact it would have.

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“this world is under terrible threat, all of it caused by us. to me, every creature, human or nonhuman, has an equal right to live, and this feeling, this belief that every animal and i are equal, affects me every time i frame an animal in my camera.

"the photos are my elegy to these beautiful creatures, to this wrenchingly beautiful world that is steadily, tragically vanishing before our eyes. …i hope that [they] might have some emotional impact on people - that in a minor way, they come away more aware that there is a sentience to those creatures, that those animals are not so different from us.

"the rangers in the photos are part of the team [of 300] from big life foundation, the non profit organization i started in september 2010 in an effort to help try and halt the alarming and massive escalation of poaching in east africa.

"so far, working within the amboseli ecosystem of kenya and northern tanzania [an area covering 2 million acres], the big life teams have successfully dramatically reduced the level of poaching and other killings of animals in the region. the problem remains rampant elsewhere.

"ivory has gone from a couple of hundred dollars a pound back in 2004 to as much as $2,000 a pound today. you’ve got an estimated 35,000 elephants a year being wiped out. with about 350,000 to 400,000 elephants left in the whole continent of africa, the elephants will be gone in the wild within ten years.”

photos (made on film without the aid of telephoto or zoom lenses) and text by nick brandt, from his latest book, “across this ravaged land

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E-E-E-ELEPHANTS TIME!!!

Elephants are large mammals of the family Elephantidae and the order Proboscidea. Two species are traditionally recognised, the African elephant (Loxodonta africana) and the Asian elephant (Elephas maximus), although some evidence suggests thatAfrican bush elephants and African forest elephants are separate species (L. africana and L. cyclotis respectively). Elephants are scattered throughout sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, and Southeast Asia. Elephantidae is the only surviving family of the order Proboscidea; other, now extinct, members of the order include deinotheres, gomphotheres, and mastodons. Male African elephants are the largest extant terrestrial animals and can reach a height of 4 m (13 ft) and weigh 7,000 kg (15,000 lb). All elephants have several distinctive features the most notable of which is a long trunk or proboscis, used for many purposes, particularly breathing, lifting water and grasping objects. Their incisors grow into tusks, which can serve as weapons and as tools for moving objects and digging. Elephants’ large ear flaps help to control their body temperature. Their pillar-like legs can carry their great weight. African elephants have larger ears and concave backs while Asian elephants have smaller ears and convex or level backs.

Elephants are herbivorous and can be found in different habitats including savannahs, forests, deserts and marshes. They prefer to stay near water. They are considered to be keystone species due to their impact on their environments. Other animals tend to keep their distance, predators such as lions, tigers, hyenas and wild dogs usually target only the young elephants (or “calves”). Females (“cows”) tend to live in family groups, which can consist of one female with her calves or several related females with offspring. The groups are led by an individual known as the matriarch, often the oldest cow. Elephants have afission-fusion society in which multiple family groups come together to socialise. Males (“bulls”) leave their family groups when they reach puberty, and may live alone or with other males. Adult bulls mostly interact with family groups when looking for a mate and enter a state of increased testosterone and aggression known as musth, which helps them gain dominance and reproductive success. Calves are the centre of attention in their family groups and rely on their mothers for as long as three years. Elephants can live up to 70 years in the wild. They communicate by touch, sight, smell and sound; elephants useinfrasound, and seismic communication over long distances. Elephant intelligence has been compared with that of primatesand cetaceans. They appear to have self-awareness and show empathy for dying or dead individuals of their kind.

African elephants are listed as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), while the Asian elephant is classed as endangered. One of the biggest threats to elephant populations is the ivory trade, as the animals arepoached for their ivory tusks. Other threats to wild elephants include habitat destruction and conflicts with local people. Elephants are used as working animals in Asia. In the past they were used in war; today, they are often put on display in zoos and circuses. Elephants are highly recognisable and have been featured in art, folklore, religion, literature and popular culture.

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