Everything Elephants - fun facts to fabulous footwear!
August 12: World Elephant Day!
Have you ever thought about elephants? Nothing in particular, just kind of marvelled at their size and perhaps slow but purposeful speed?
Yes, No? Well we've got lots more info for you here, and a bonus on how you can contribute to saving them with Bare Kind!
Let's fill you in on elephants, then!
You probably knew that they live in groups, similar to giraffe towers, but elephant groups are called 'herds'. And, unlike giraffes, the group is led by the oldest, and generally largest, female, who is referred to as the matriarch. Elephants develop deep, intimate bonds with each other, and the family will include the mother, her sisters, daughters and their babies.
The family's size will determine the herd's size and is dependent on the terrain they've chosen to live on. Baby elephants, and especially newborn calves, are protected by the entire matriarchal herd.
At this point, you might be wondering, well what about the male elephants? They have a very different behaviour pattern, which many describe as nomadic. They'll generally leave the herd between 12 and 15 years, at which point they'd have reached puberty. Upon leaving the family unit, they may temporarily live with other males or travel alone - at some point, they may pursue and select a female mate, but will soon after resume the solitary life and roam alone.
You've probably vaguely seen elephants just always walking around as if they never really settle in one place - that's true! Elephants are migratory animals, so they need lots of food and especially water to sustain themselves.
In any case, an elephant herd varies from 8 to 100 elephants, though you may see as many as 1,000 elephants around a watering hole!
As for the types of elephants that exist, there are 3 species: the African Bush Elephant, the African Forest Elephant and the Asian Elephant. Initially, it was believed the two African species were the same, but genetic studies later revealed they split into two around 2-7 million years ago... that's such a huge distance away.
You can differentiate between African and Asian Elephants through their ears, skin, size (and weight), back and head shape!
African Elephants, who grow to 4 metres (13 feet), are noticeably larger and taller than their Asian cousins, who reach no more than 3.5 metres (11.5 feet). The ones most of us from the West are likely familiar with from media portrayal (generally movies and perhaps documentaries) are African elephants, who have wrinklier skin, larger ears and wider trunks. Asian elephants also have a twin dome on their head, otherwise known as a bump, which is another identifier to its species compared to African elephants. The last most noticeable feature is the arch of their back: African elephants will have concave backs whereas Asian elephants will have convex or level backs. An African elephant will weigh between 4,000-7,000 kg, whilst an Asian elephant, 3,000-6,000 kg.
It was the pregnancy timings and intervals that allowed researches to distinguish between the two African Elephant Species: Bush and Forest!
- They're the largest living land animal. Giraffes are the tallest at 5.5. metres, but not the largest: an African bull elephant can weigh up to 7,500 kg and its tusks extend out by 2 metres, with each weighing in around 45 kg
- They have a big brain and are amongst the most intelligent in the animal kingdom. An elephant's brain weighs up to 5.4 kg, compared to 1.35 kg (an average human male) and 7 kg (a blue whale's brain)
- By foot-stomping, they create low frequency rumbles in the ground, thus being able to communicate through it as a medium. The seismic waves they generate can travel nearly 20 miles, and because they have such sensitive skin, it's easy to pick up the signals...
- Elephants can hear and communicate in infrasounds - sounds made in pitches lower than what the human ear can pick up
- Newborn elephants can't use their trunks because they lack the muscle tone, so they instead kind of slurp at their water through their mouths
- Speaking of, their trunks are an extension of their upper lip
- Female Asian elephants are the only ones without tusks
- When migrating, an elephant herd will often be seen walking in single file, with the matriarch leading... the calves might hold their mother's tail with their trunk... that's so cute... (Did you spot that design on our socks?)
So, what makes elephants endangered?
Hunting elephants for their ivory tusks is one of the biggest reasons for elephant endangerment, followed by habitat loss and degradation as a result of humans and climate change.
Tragically, ivory hunting kills off around 30,000 elephants a year
The Sumatran elephant, which is a subtype of the Asian species, is the most endangered. Asian elephants made up about 1/10th of the total elephant population in the 20th century, with a number of around 100,000 (the total elephant population was approximately 1 million). In the last three generations, however, that 1 million total has dwindled down to 400,000 due to habitat loss, illegal poaching, and conflicts with humans. That's a 60% decrease in the last three generations! This conflict comes from a rise in human populations, who then need more space to live and so deforestation increases drastically. It's part of why Asian elephants are more endangered than African ones and have even become extinct in many parts of Asia - similarly to Giraffes going extinct in 7 African countries.
You might have thought about how they deal with food and water since they're migrating animals, and climate isn't the same everywhere- especially since elephants can live in mountains, forests, grasslands, savanna and deserts. With the existing climate crises causing droughts, there's a shortage of water and elephants suffer from that.
How you can save them
David Shepherd was referred to as "The Man Who Loved Giants" because of his fondness for elephants and steam trains. The Foundation "fights to protect elephant populations by funding law enforcement programmes across Africa and Asia through the funding of park protection and anti-poaching efforts. Our ground-based conservation partners help to provide a blanket of protection in prime elephant habitats most at threat from the illegal wildlife trade."