Fun Facts - African Elephants
Here are some rather random facts about African Elephants, some you will know, some you won't.
We'll start with the basics...
Elephants are big.
African elephants can grow to be up to 6.5 tonnes and 3.3 meters tall at the shoulder! This makes them the largest current land based animal in the world. Then again size is all about perspective as a blue whale can weigh as much as 40 elephants! (Although I'm not sure how someone goes about weighing a whale?!)
Where do you find an African Elephant?
African Elephants will live in almost any habitat that provides plentiful food and water. Populations are scattered throughout sub-Saharan Africa and the rain forests of Central and West Africa. Although they can be seen around the world in many respectable safari parks and zoos. Unfortunately they can also be found in not such good places like circuses and tourist traps, we encourage you not to support these practices.
An Elephant's ears are not big for hearing (or flying).
Elephants’ ears are large to stop them overheating. Unlike the thick skin that covers most of their bodies, the skin on their ears is paper-thin. When they flap their ears the airflow reduces blood temperature in the ears by up to 5°C which then goes into the rest of their bodies cooling them! The pattern the blood vessels in their ears make is unique to each elephant and can be used to identify them, much like human fingerprints.
An Elephant's trunk contains over 40,000 muscles!
Yep, that's right! Just to compare we only have about 640 in our entire bodies!
An elephant's trunk is actually a long nose used for smelling, breathing, trumpeting, drinking, and also for grabbing things. They even have 2 'fingers' at the end they can use to grab small stuff. Interestingly, elephants show a preference between grasping objects to the left or right, in the same way that children are left or right-handed.
A female Elephant can be pregnant for 22 months.
You think you have it hard? That's 13 months longer than a human pregnancy and like us they usually give birth to one calf at a time (yes, I admit it would be weird if a human gave birth to a calf but you know what I mean). They also only give birth once every 5 years or so making it crucial to care for their young. Because of this they develop deep bonds and actually mourn if they loose their child.
I highly recommend watching the episode about elephants on BBC's Africa, it's a moving watch but gives you a great idea of their bond.
Here is a clip of the film makers speaking about it:
At current poaching rates Elephants may not last 10 years.
Due to their tusks, elephants are hunted by humans (their only predator). Tusk ivory is very valuable on the black market and is used mostly to make statues and ornaments. Due to the combination of poaching and slow reproductive rates their numbers are shrinking, can you imagine a world with no elephants? It's horrible to think. Elephants are also at threat from climate change and are sometimes harmed when in confrontation with farmers for eating and/or destroying their crops.
What can we do to help?
There are many organisations that help the African wildlife and help to ensure their future. We work with the African Wildlife Foundation (AWF), AWF works with communities who live in close quarters with wildlife to recruit, train, and equip wildlife scouts. Scouts monitor elephants and can prevent them from destroying crops, thereby preventing farmers from viewing them as pests, and they are instrumental in deterring poachers. As a result, AWF is able to ensure enhanced protection of wildlife in these regions, like the Osupuko and Kitome Conservancies in Kenya, as well as provide additional employment opportunities to local communities.
If you want to find out more or donate please see go to awf.org
Thank you for reading,
Thanks to BBC, AWF, National Geographic, QI and the general internet for helping me compile these facts.