There’s something about elephants that we humans love. Ask any zoo or safari park to produce a list of their most popular animals and these gentle beasts from Africa and Asia are sure to feature more often than not.
Some of you may know a lot about elephants already, but here’s a selection of lesser known facts that are sure to amaze even the biggest of fans. Let’s start with the trunk.
Elephants are most famous for their trunks. If you ask someone to do an impression of the animal I guarantee they’ll get their arm and wave it around as if it’s attached to their face. Elephant trunks are undoubtedly cool, but they’re not just for show.
There are more than 40,000 different muscles in an elephant’s trunk, and they can grow as long as 8 feet. They use it to feed, drink and defend themselves, and that’s just the start of it.
They can use their trunk as a snorkel when in water, and often wave them around in the air so they can get a better smell of their surroundings. And young elephant calves have even been seen sucking their trunks for comfort, just like a human child does with their thumb.
Elephants primarily use their tusks as a form of defence, a fact that is widely known. But not many know that just as humans have a favourite hand elephants have a preferred tusk.
Elephant tusks are actually just teeth that grow continuously. Both African and Asian elephant tusks can grow to around 10 feet long, but female Asian elephants either have no tusks or very short ones.
Elephants can live for up to 80 years and can get through seven sets of teeth in their lifetime, compared to humans who have just two. If an Elephant is living on its own it will normally starve to death when it’s last set of teeth has worn out. But in a herd the younger elephants will help the older ones to feed, a remarkable display of compassion that helps the animals live on.
Elephants are considered to be one of the world’s most intelligent animal species, which is hardly surprising when you consider that their brains weigh more than 5 kilograms.
They have a very high level of emotional intelligence, and often show signs of compassion, grief, humour and a love of play.
Many that are in captivity have been taught to do some quite remarkable things. Ruby, and Asian elephant who used to reside at Phoenix Zoo was quite an artist, and one of her paintings sold for 25,000 dollars. Others have been known to unlock doors, respond to complex demands and count better than humans.
Elephants are the only animal other than humans to practice a death ritual. If one of the herd becomes sick the others will bring them food and water, and will carry on trying to revive the animal even after it has passed way.
When an elephant dies the herd falls silent, as if they are in a state of mournful respect. They usually dig a shallow hole for their fallen friend and use a mixture of leaves and dirt to cover the body.
It’s not uncommon for an elephant to show signs of depression after witnessing the passing of one of their own. Scientists frequently debate the extent of an elephant’s ability to show emotion, but they can’t deny that these gentle giants are truly special animals.
When he’s not thinking about elephants Alexander Jones contributes to Find Me A Gift, where you’ll find a great selection of gifts for men and women.