Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Ten Facts about Elephants

I like elephants; they are cute, huge and funny looking. They are a big part of many cultures and they are used as metaphors all around the world. They are associated with wisdom. For many people around the globe, elephants hold some sort of religious values. Of course, not all of us live close enough to elephants to know a lot about them. In fact, most of us have hardly seen them once, twice or even never. I will list down ten interesting facts about elephants that you probably didn’t know before. It is said how these poor creatures have had hunters on their tails ever since their tusks became valuable.

10. ELEPHANT SPECIES

Until 2010, only two different species of elephants were recognized. There are new reports now that say that there are at least three different species of these creatures; The Asian Elephant (Alphas Maximus), the African Bush Elephant (Loxodonta Africana) and the African Forest Elephant (Loxodonta Cyclones). The Asian elephant is the smallest and therefore smaller tusks. The African Forest Elephant has straighter tusks while the Bush Elephant has beautifully curved tusks.

9. REPRODUCTION

Homosexual elephants mate all year long. An elephant cow (female elephant) is only fertile for a few days in a year. During this time, the males ‘hit’ on her. They use various affectionate gestures and nuzzle in the process. If she agrees, she will respond in a similar manner. The elephant cow is usually pregnant for 22 months and the new-born is around a 100 kg and blind. Infants are then taught by their mother the basic survival course and the rest they learn as they grow up.

8. SOCIAL LIVES

Males are usually solitary and move from herd to herd. A female elephant however, stays in a herd of around 10 elephants with the leader being the one with the most experience. Elephants communicate between herds or other elephants miles away using sounds. These sounds are often too low for human ears to understand. Another way elephants communicate is by the stamping of their huge feet. An elephant herd is said to be one of the most gelled up herd in the animal world.

7. DEATH

Normally an elephant can live to 80 years. Humans, Neanderthals and Elephants are the only creatures known to have death rituals. If an elephant is sick, the members from its herd would bring him food. If it dies, elephants will try and revive it with food but once it is clear that the elephant is dead, the herd will quiet down. It has been reported that they often dig up a small grave. The elephants are reported to have shown signs of depression even. There have been reports of elephants burying dead humans.

6. EXTINCT ELEPHANTS

Proboscidea has only three members today but it used to have over forty. Most of these lived until the end of the last glacial period some 12,500 years ago. They were almost similar in size to today’s Asian Elephants however, there were dwarf elephants and then there were giant elephants reaching 4.5 meters in height and weighing in on 14 tones. The largest elephant recorded was 4 m tall. Then there were mammoths and the last one to go extinct in their race was the woolly mammoth.

5. JUMBO

You must know of a lot of famous elephants and Jumbo was one of them. He was named so because of his size. He was an African Bush Elephant who was born in 1861. He was taken to a French zoo as an infant where later, he was transferred to a British zoo. Jumbo’s caretaker would often give him a gallon of whiskey and believed that it was good for his health. Jumbo was later sold and exported to the USA. Many children wrote to the queen and asked her to keep Jumbo in England. He died at the age of 24 and was 4 meters tall at the time of his death.

4. TEETH AND TUSKS

We are born toothless and age brings is a perfect set of teeth (most of the times). Elephants go through the same process with tusks. Elephants use these tusks to dig, carry heavy weight and sometimes as a part of mating rituals. It is illegal now, but elephants were constantly hunted for their tusks. Poaching the elephants is considered to be one of the prime reasons for decrease in the length of tusks. Elephants can eat about 150 kg of vegetation each day and such heavy eating causes their teeth to wear out quickly, which is why they have around 6 or 7 sets of teeth.

3. TRUNKS

The elephant’s trunk is actually a nose. The trunk allows them to manipulate different objects to a higher degree. There are some elephants that have been taught to paint using their trunks. They can learn to open locks. There have been instances where two elephants have worked together to escape; one faked a collapse while the other opened the locks for both of them to escape. That’s interesting isn’t it?

2. FEET

Every elephant has five toes however, not all the toes have a nail. This is an easy way to differentiate between the two elephant species in Africa. The African forest and Asian elephants both have around 5 toenails on the front feet and 4 on the back feet, while the African Bush elephant has 4 to 5 toenails on the front and 3 on the back. They have a large pad of gristle underneath each feet to absorb shock. Their feet are built to carry heavy weights for larger distances. They can develop leg problems if they walk less.

1. INTELLIGENCE

Elephants have one of the more intelligent animal brains on this Earth. Their brain weighs in on a whopping 5 kilos. That is more than the brain of any other land animal. Only whales beat them when it comes to the complexity of the folds in the brain; the more complex the folds, the more intelligent the animal. Elephants can show grief, compassion and self-awareness. They can understand the use of tools and be cooperative and they have shown excellent learning abilities. Studies have shown that these guys are more capable than humans when it comes to keeping track of multiple objects in 3D space.

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