They are the world's largest surviving land mammals. They are highly intelligent and intensely social, immensely strong yet capable of great sensitivity. They have a reputation for having long memories, and they mourn their deceased relatives and sometimes even people who have been kind to them.
They are the gardeners of the forests and savannahs in which they live, creating and renewing the landscape to the benefit of multitudes of other species.
We arguably see more of ourselves in elephants than we do in most other animals with which we share this world, with the possible exception of some of the great Apes.
But while we marvel at these incredible animals, we are in danger of seeing them disappear from their wild heartlands during our watch, and subjecting many thousands of them to miserable captive lives for the sake of profit and entertainment.
Elephants are declining fast across much of their remaining African and Asian range. Expanding human populations and the demand for land to grow crops or graze livestock is displacing elephants and cutting off their traditional migratory routes. As a result, elephants find themselves in ever closer proximity to people, and conflict results, with elephants the inevitable losers.
African elephants are particularly threatened by poaching for their tusks, to supply our vain demand for ivory carvings, ornaments and trinkets. At least 20,000 are brutally killed by poachers each year.
The trade in live elephants to supply zoos, temples and tourist attractions, and to work in the timber industry, tears elephant families and communities apart. The brutal 'training' many young elephants are forced to endure causes untold suffering, and reduces individuals to mere shells of their true selves.
Less than half a million African elephants remain compared with perhaps five million just a century ago. Asian elephants probably number less than 40,000, down from over 100,000 at the beginning of the last century. These numbers are staggering, and the declines continue.
So while we celebrate these magnificent animals for their intelligence, their compassion, their individual characters and their social complexity, let's reflect on their importance to the ecosystems they inhabit, and the benefits they bring to so many other species.
Let's renounce the keeping of elephants in zoos and tourist camps.
Let's demand that all countries, including the UK and the EU, shut down the trade in ivory which fuels demand and incentivises poaching.
Let's keep elephants in the wild, where they belong.