Elephants are a part of our life, culture and traditions. They are associated with various religious beliefs round the world. They are also seen as a symbol of wisdom and altruism. They are the third most intelligent animals in the world. There are various interesting facts about them from why they live near water bodies to the longest pregnancy period. Let us discover the top ten facts about elephants which we still are unaware of, here goes the list:
The big ears of an elephant are another major attraction. There is a reason behind such big ears. It radiates heat to keep the huge body cool that is the reason why elephants don’t sweat. Ears act as a cooling device for their body. During the times of danger or threat they spread both the ears wide on either side of the head to get signals. Even they use their ears to communicate visually. Together with their feet and trunk they use their ears to receive communication signals over a long distance sent by other members of the community. It is said that they can receive communication signals upto 4 km and during times of threat or danger upto 10 km. They also flap their ears to either express anger or joy.
Elephants are herbivorous animal. An elephant has the capacity to eat 150-170 kg of food every day. During dry season together with food they also drink 80 liters of water whereas during rainy days they can eat 200-280 kg of food every day. From the food they consume iron and bicarbonate. Elephants from Savanna region mostly eat woody vegetation and plants especially during summers while forest elephants like eating fruit and woody vegetation. In Kenya papers are made from elephant dung. Without water they cannot survive for more than 24 hours. That is the region why elephants can be easily traced near water bodies. They cannot survive without bathing daily, and this makes them a good swimmer.
Like human elephants foot too has 5 toes but all the toes do not have nail. This is the thing which helps in easily identifying different species. The African forest as well as Asian elephant both has 5 nails on all the five toes, whereas African bush elephant possesses 4 or 5 on the front feet and 3 on the back. They have a large pad at the bottom of their feet which makes it flat. The large pad acts as a shock absorber and helps them in walking quietly. Their strong legs provide them great support to their weight that is the reason why elephants can easily sleep while standing. As per their lifestyle and leg design they are expected to cover huge distance in their life span. Elephants staying in zoos develop foot problems due to a lack of constant walking.
Elephant is the largest mammals on this planet earth and the females of this species undergo the longest pregnancy period. There is valid proof and documentation that elephants are homosexual, they mate round the year. But the female elephants are only fertile on a few days of a year. During these days male elephants try to attract them by using various ways like romantic gestures and loving nuzzles. If the female feels the same way she will respond to it with similar actions and after 20-25 minutes of relationship rituals they start mating. Once she conceives, she undergoes a pregnancy of 22 months. It is the longest pregnancy period in any land animal. The baby elephant when born is of 100 kgs. They are initially blind and similar to humans they also suck their thumb, which gives them pleasure. It is seen that the mother elephant selects few members from the herd to take care of the baby so that she can eat well to produce enough milk for her baby.
- Social Lives
Elephants always live in a group. Female elephants prefer to be in a herd of 10-12 members which is mostly lead by an experienced female elephant, whereas males keep on moving from herd to herd. Whenever there is a baby in the herd, all the females together get the food and care for them. Elephants have this amazing feature of communicating with each other by use of clever movements and gestures like curling of the trunk, fold of the ear or a step backward. Through these actions they convey essential information to other members of the herd. They also communicate with their herd or other herds several kilometers away by stamping their feet which is too low for humans to hear. The elephant herd is known for their cooperation, and they are closely-knit. A female elephant only leaves her group either when she dies or when captured by humans whereas males leave once they become young.
The normal life span for elephant is 60-80 years. Just like humans, elephants also have death rituals. Whenever an elephant is ill, all the members of the herd help him by bringing food and support him. Even any member dies others try to bring him back with food and water. Once they realize that he is no more, the whole herd becomes quiet. After that they dig a grave and cover the dead body with dirt and branches. They also stay near the grave for the few days. It is also seen that if any elephant is very close to the dead member, he/she shows the symptoms of depression. Other herds also show the same respect towards the deceased member. It is also found that if elephants come across a dead human they also bury him and show the same respect.
- Teeth and Tusks
Just like humans elephants are also born without tusks. Gradually they develop milk tusks and later replace them with permanent one. Female Asian elephant do not have tusk. Elephant uses their tusks for lifting objects and digging holes. They also use that while mating. Worldwide there is illegal poaching of their ivory tusk. Gradually the tusk size is decreasing. Elephants sleep for 2-3 hours every day. Due to their food habit their teeth wear out soon and replace it 6-7 times during their life span. Once the last set of teeth is worn out, they die due to starvation.
The trunk is a special nose for elephants. It contains more than 40,000 muscles. In terms of dexterity it is similar to octopus tentacles. It helps them in handling various tools and object. Elephants can be easily taught to paint using their trunks. Some of the trained elephants have done amazing artwork. With their trunk they also easily learn to open locks and many other complex tasks. The trunk has a unique structure and a primary part of the olfactory system. To test the sample of air for scents they move their trunk in different directions. While swimming they keep their trunk out of the water to breathe.
Elephant is third most intelligent animals on this planet. Their brains alone weigh 5kg, they can be easily taught any task to perform. Except whale they have the most complex folding in their brain. These twist and turns in the brain is responsible for their intelligence. Just like humans they also express emotions like humor, grief, compassion, self-awareness and cooperation. They also express the playfulness and outstanding learning abilities. They have a highly developed brain region which is responsible for spatial awareness and emotions. They can easily be taught to paint and play games like cricket, football and basketballs. There are incidents which show that they are also altruistic towards other like rescuing trapped dog or human.
Elephants have a strong cultural, historical and religious significance worldwide. They are symbol of mythology. In Hinduism, they are seen as a symbol of strength and wisdom. In parts of southern India elephants perform all the temple rituals, they are well trained and it is a major tourist attraction. Even an Indian god face is of elephant. Since ages elephants are used in wars and are known for their royalty. In south Asia they are a religious figure and they are also one of the animals according to Chinese zodiac calendar. Elephants can be easily seen in any of the ancient art work. Since ages and still they are a part of religious, cultural processions and ceremonies.