As a massive poaching crisis rages across Africa, we are forced to consider the almost inconceivable—yet unfortunately very real— prospect of a world without wild elephants. The African savanna elephant is currently listed as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, while the African forest elephant is considered critically endangered. Surging demand for illegal ivory in Asian markets has resulted in an estimated 15,000–20,000 African elephants being killed each year—an average of 40–47 per day.

It’s hard to begin to imagine what such a profound and fundamental loss would mean, not just to the ecosystems that elephants are a critical part of but also to our own basic understanding of the natural world and sense of our place in it. Want to learn how you can help protect elephants in the wild? Find out more about elephant conservation from Nat Hab’s conservation partner, World Wildlife Fund.

One of the best ways to help save elephants is through ecotourism: traveling to see them safely and sustainably in the wild. Experience life-changing African elephant encounters on most of our African safaris, and meet Asian elephants on many of our India, Nepal & Bhutan and Borneo adventures!

Another way to bring attention to the plight of these gentle giants? By sharing some of the moving words written about them through the years. Luckily, novelists, poets, philosophers and scientists have had plenty to say about elephants. Here are just a few of our favorite quotes about them:

“If elephants didn’t exist, you couldn’t invent one. They belong to a small group of living things so unlikely they challenge credulity and common sense.”

― Lyall Watson

“We admire elephants in part because they demonstrate what we consider the finest human traits: empathy, self-awareness, and social intelligence. But the way we treat them puts on display the very worst of human behavior.”

― Graydon Carter

African elephant Tanzania by Emily Kautz

Nat Hab guests encounter an African elephant on our Tanzania’s Great Migration & Ngorongoro Crater safari © Emily Kautz

“Of all African animals, the elephant is the most difficult for man to live with, yet its passing – if this must come – seems the most tragic of all. I can watch elephants (and elephants alone) for hours at a time, for sooner or later the elephant will do something very strange such as mow grass with its toenails or draw the tusks from the rotted carcass of another elephant and carry them off into the bush. There is mystery behind that masked gray visage, and ancient life force, delicate and mighty, awesome and enchanted, commanding the silence ordinarily reserved for mountain peaks, great fires, and the sea.”

― Peter Matthiessen, The Tree Where Man Was Born

“Nature’s great masterpiece, an elephant – the only harmless great thing.”

― John Donne

Pygmy elephants in Borneo by Court Whelan

Pygmy elephants photographed on Nat Hab’s The Wilds of Borneo adventure © Court Whelan

“There is no creature among all the Beasts of the world which hath so great and ample demonstration of the power and wisdom of almighty God as the Elephant.”

― Edward Topsell, The Historie of Foure-Footed Beastes

“They say that somewhere in Africa the elephants have a secret grave where they go to lie down, unburden their wrinkled gray bodies, and soar away, light spirits at the end.”

― Robert McCammon, Boy’s Life

African elephant in Botswana by Ona Basimane

African elephant photographed on Nat Hab’s Secluded Botswana Safari © Ona Basimane

“Elephants love reunions. They recognize one another after years and years of separation and greet each other with wild, boisterous joy. There’s bellowing and trumpeting, ear flapping and rubbing. Trunks entwine.”

― Jennifer Richard Jacobson, Small as an Elephant

“But perhaps the most important lesson I learned is that there are no walls between humans and the elephants except those we put up ourselves, and that until we allow not only elephants, but all living creatures their place in the sun, we can never be whole ourselves.”

― Lawrence Anthony, The Elephant Whisperer: My Life with the Herd in the African Wild

African elephants in Botswana by Joey Sudmeier

African elephants photographed on an African safari © Joey Sudmeier

“It is absurd for a man to kill an elephant. It is not brutal, it is not heroic, and certainly it is not easy; it is just one of those preposterous things that men do like putting a dam across a great river, one tenth of whose volume could engulf the whole of mankind without disturbing the domestic life of a single catfish.”

― Beryl Markham, West with the Night

“And the elephant sings deep in the forest-maze
About a star of deathless and painless peace
But no astronomer can find where it is.”

― Ted Hughes, Crow’s Elephant Totem Song

“I meant what I said and I said what I meant. An elephant’s faithful one-hundred percent!”

― Dr. Seuss, Horton Hatches the Egg