Room to Roam: ‎The Elephant’s Path to Climate Resilience

How creating dedicated “connected corridors” for elephants and other big ‎wildlife to travel through in Africa has an impact on us all.‎

If global climate change tends to get you down or fill you with anxiety, this story is sure to bring you some hope. Azzedine Downes, President and CEO of IFAW, the International Fund for Animal Welfare, is excited to share how animals—especially elephants—can help stop the effects of climate change.

We currently have at our fingertips some very powerful allies in the fight against climate change all across the globe. In fact, we have billions of them, working day and night to save Earth’s most vital ecosystems. There’s just one hitch: They aren’t human. They are elephants…and whales…and wolves…and so many other animals. They are showing all of us how to save our planet.

To put all of this in just five words: Saving wildlife is saving ourselves. It’s that simple. When we talk about our planet getting warmer, we’re also talking about it becoming less biodiverse.

Like our bodies, the planet’s health depends on circulation: the carbon cycle, the water cycle, and the nitrogen cycle. And just like our bodies, the planet has an immune system to protect itself when too much carbon builds up in the atmosphere. These are often called carbon sinks—like soil, plants, and oceans. If we give wildlife the space and conditions they need to thrive, they help nature bounce back from centuries of human degradation and carbon buildup. In essence, they help power this massive immune system.

Animals fertilize the soil, rebuild habitats, circulate nitrogen—everything it takes to slow down global warming and restore balance. By exterminating wildlife, it’s as if we are turning the planet’s immune system against itself. This is a cold scientific fact: We cannot fight climate change without wildlife.

IFAW has a profound new approach—they call it Room to Roam.

In essence, IFAW is helping to create a matrix of wildlife corridors to connect 12 key landscapes across Africa, covering thousands of square kilometers. These corridors follow the migratory paths of African elephants. Some even refer to them as ‘connected corridors’ but they are actually more of a corridor—a safe transit space. Based on 20 years of scientific research we are also giving elephants a chance to reverse their huge decline.

Elephants are a keystone species—when they thrive, the benefits cascade through entire ecosystems. Plants rely on elephants to transport their seeds across the savannah. They also help fertilize those same plants with vital nutrients, helping them grow fuller and in even the harshest climates. And those same elephants clear brush and use their tusks to dig for water, creating pathways and watering holes. A single elephant can substantially increase the amount of carbon that forests capture and store. And this is only the beginning.

Animals and wildlife are a huge part of the solution to climate change. We must not simply accept that animals are destined to be the victims of biodiversity loss. Animals are the single greatest hope for a healthier, safer, and more biodiverse world. Elephants—as well as Room to Roam—prove that resoundingly. So, if we’re interested in saving our shared earth, we need to start by saving an elephant.

IFAW has engaged landowners across a wide landscape to lease their land for elephant conservation. They support the training and equipment of rangers, who work on the ground to monitor elephants and prevent poaching. And they work with local communities to support their needs through climate-resilient and wildlife-friendly livelihoods, and climate-smart agriculture.

All of these positive outcomes of Room to Roam result in massive ecological benefits. Greater biodiversity, greater natural resilience to climate change, and a future where animals and people can coexist and thrive together. Without competition, without environmental decay, and towards a more hopeful future.

This human world of ours is so fragile, but the Earth is resilient. Nature bounces back quickly if we allow it to, if we give it the space it needs. During the pandemic, we all witnessed how nature quickly begins to heal itself—animals being seen in places they hadn’t ever been seen before and populations slowly rebounding. Given time—and space—nature bounces back.

The fact that the younger generations really seem to understand this and embrace a respect for wildlife and the environment—is a huge source of hope. People often ask if the earth is at a ‘tipping point’ when it comes to climate change? The answer is we are only at a tipping point if we abandon hope. There is fierce determination in so many people and communities today to protect the environment.

Jane Goodall is a close friend of Azzedine, and they’ve been friends for many years. She was kind enough to write the foreword of his book, The Couscous Chronicles, especially because he included ‘donkeys’ in his book. And she absolutely loves donkeys.

Jane has been a mentor of so many and her message of hope has been a very influential force for Azzedine and so many others. Her foundation, Council for Hope, spreads this message, which is so critical for the future.

How can people help? There are a number of small things you can do. First, go outside. Take small steps to improve the world around you. Plant a garden, flowers, anything that will contribute to the belief that you can do something.

If you would like to find more information about IFAW, please visit or find them on Instagram @ifawglobal.

*Content Provided and Sponsored by IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare).

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