Elephants inspire awe and wonder with their imposing size and stature. Being the biggest land creature that still walks the Earth, people see them as a symbol of power and might. Yet, their gentle nature makes them exude an aura of great wisdom and patience.
Learn more about these majestic creatures by starting with these fun facts about elephants:
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Elephants have the largest brain of all land animals
While the human brain weighs an average of 1.4 kg, the African elephant’s brain can weigh as much as 5 kg. It also has three times more neurons than ours. However, their brain has evolved to prioritize three things: movements, balance, and memory.
Elephants have well-developed cerebellum to maintain excellent balance and control their massive trunk, which they skillfully use as an extra appendage.
On the other hand, their enlarged temporal lobe explains the secret to their legendary ability never to forget. Elephants can remember anything from places to events, faces, and even voices.
Elephants can do so many things with their trunk
Elephants use their trunks like super versatile appendages. With roughly 50,000 muscles in their enormous trunk, the elephant can perform intricate movements like picking and opening peanuts.
They can also swing them around like a giant whip or bat to ward off predators. Researchers have even seen elephants grip and pull out trees with their trunks and then gingerly shake the hands of their caretakers afterwards.
With their huge hollow trunks, elephants can also suck up several liters of water to spray or drink. They can also use their hollow trunks like a snorkel when swimming. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that elephants depend on their trunks to survive.
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Elephants are excellent swimmers
Despite their size, elephants are exceptionally capable in the water. Amazingly enough, they have enough buoyancy to remain at the surface. And even if they do sink deeper, they won’t have any problems breathing because they can utilize their huge trunks like snorkels.
They use their large feet for paddling and climbing out of banks. Swimming is a necessary skill for them because their nomadic lifestyle brings them frequent encounters with rivers and other bodies of water.
Elephant tusks are actually overgrown teeth
The white ivory tusks that poachers value so much are enlarged incisors of elephants. They start protruding by the time the elephant turns two years old. Then, they just continue growing outward throughout the rest of their lives.
They use these large tusks to peel off tree bark, dig up roots, defend themselves and their family from predators, or compete against other elephants for potential mates. When they are removed (oftentimes by poachers), it usually results in painful infection and death.
Elephants have thick, greatly wrinkled skin
If you see them up close, you’ll understand that elephant skin is not just very thick—they are also heavenly wrinkled in many areas. The thick skin helps protect them from sunburn, while the wrinkles help retain moisture and dust particles to cool them further down.
This is also why you regularly see elephants dipping in the water or spraying mud and dust on themselves.
Elephants communicate through vibrations
Aside from trumpet-like calls, body language, touch, and scents, elephants also use ground vibrations to communicate with other elephants.
They can create infrasonic sounds (too low for humans to hear) that can cause seismic vibrations. These vibrations are picked up over long distances, usually through the bones on their feet.
Elephants are constantly eating
Because they are so big, their bodies’ demand for energy is also huge. This is why elephants have to eat constantly.
According to research, elephants spend as much as 75% of their day munching on food. The huge adult African elephants can consume as much as 150 kg of food daily.
Elephants reproduce slowly
One of the reasons why elephant numbers are dwindling is that elephants reproduce very slowly. In contrast to human females, who carry their babies for nine months (around 40 weeks), pregnant female elephants carry their babies for 22 months before giving birth.
If that’s not bad enough, elephants usually bear only a single calf every three to six years. Then, thanks to poachers and habitat destruction, not all baby elephants make it to adulthood.
Baby elephants can stand within 20 minutes of birth
Being migratory animals, elephants can travel anywhere from 50-100 km on foot. Because of this, newborn baby elephants need to quickly be able to stand up and walk with the herd so they won’t get left behind.
Baby elephants need to be able to stand within 20 minutes of birth, or they will be in danger of getting lost or killed by predators who constantly follow the herd.
Elephants help shape the land
They significantly impact the land, not only because they consume large quantities of vegetation and trample and flatten surfaces when they walk but also because they spread plant seeds everywhere by pooping.
And since they travel long distances when they migrate, they are also considered excellent seed dispersal agents.
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Frequently Asked Questions about Elephants
How long do elephants live?
While the oldest elephant died at 89, elephants usually live to around 60 years in the wild. This number reaches 80 in captivity because of reduced resource pressure and regular medical monitoring.
Which animals are elephants afraid of the most?
Although elephants are wary of predators, they often stand their ground against many. However, when it comes down to bees, elephants show extreme signs of panic and distress.
This is probably due to the understanding that their size will not work against the little stingers. Instead, it makes them a bigger target.
Do elephants never forget?
Elephants have excellent memories. They are famous for the fact that they never forget. However, this is merely an exaggeration because they can forget things. They just take much longer to do so compared to others.
Do elephants get angry?
Elephants are generally peaceful and gentle. However, they have also been observed to show aggression when they feel sick, threatened, or harassed. Aggressive territorial behaviors have also been documented in the wild.