A poacher's bullet kills more than elephants - an elephant's death ricochets through the ecosystem, affecting everything from other animals to the vegetation where the pachyderms roam.
When elephants are poached, "the entire ecosystem is at risk," said Trevor Caughlin, a University of Florida ecologist, in a press release. Caughlin and his colleagues recently discovered that a lack of elephants in Thailand puts certain tree species at risk of extinction. "My hope for this study is that it will provide a boost for those trying to curb overhunting and provide incentives to stop the wildlife trade."
Elephants are capable of eating fruits and seeds that other animals can't digest. Migratory elephants, moreover, deposit digested tree seeds much farther away than they could otherwise travel, increasing the chances that a seed can take root.