10 facts and curiosities about Elephants
by Julie World Paint by Number on July 22, 2020
Get to know some curiosities about these incredible mammals, the elephants.
1. WORLD’S LARGEST LAND ANIMAL
The African elephant is the world's largest land mammal – with males on average measuring up to 3m high and weighing up to 6 tonnes. Males only reach their full size at 35-40 years - that’s well over half their lifespan as wild elephants can live for up to 60-70 years. And it’s not just the adults – even calves are huge! At birth elephants can weigh 120kg - that’s almost 19 stone.
2. MAD SKILLS
Elephants have around 150,000 muscle units in their trunk. Their trunks are perhaps the most sensitive organ found in any mammal - Asian elephants have been seen to pick up a peanut, shell it, blow the shell out and eat the nut. Elephants use their trunks to suck up water to drink – it can contain up to 8 litres of water. They also use their trunks as a snorkel when swimming.
3. THEY’VE GOT THICK SKIN
An elephant’s skin is 2.5cm thick in most places. The folds and wrinkles in their skin can retain up to 10 times more water than flat skin does, which helps to cool them down. They keep their skin clean and protect themselves from sunburn by taking regular dust and mud baths.
4. ELEPHANTS ARE CONSTANTLY EATING
Elephants need up to 150kg of food per day – that's around 375 tins of baked beans although half of this may leave the body undigested. They eat so much that they can spend up to three-quarters of their day eating.
5. THEY COMMUNICATE THROUGH VIBRATIONS
Elephants communicate in a variety of ways - including sounds like trumpet calls (some sounds are too low for people to hear), body language, touch and scent. They can also communicate through seismic signals - sounds that create vibrations in the ground - which they may detect through their bones.
6. CALVES CAN STAND WITHIN 20 MINUTES OF BIRTH
Amazingly, elephant calves are able to stand within 20 minutes of being born and can walk within 1 hour. After two days, they can keep up with the herd. This incredible survival technique means that herds of elephants can keep migrating to find food and water to thrive.
7. AN ELEPHANT NEVER FORGETS
The elephant's temporal lobe (the area of the brain associated with memory) is larger and denser than that of people - hence the saying 'elephants never forget'.
8. ASIAN CULTURES
Asian cultures admire the high intelligence and good memory of Asian elephants. As such, they symbolise wisdom and royal power
9. EUROPEANS CULTURES
Aside from being a curiosity for Europeans, the elephant also became a symbol of military might from the experience of fighting foreign powers that fielded war elephants throughout history. After Alexander the Great's victory over King Porus of India, the captured war elephants became a symbol of imperial power, being used as an emblem of the Seleucid Diadoch empire. Later, when Napoleon Bonaparte wanted a monument to his own imperial power, he decreed that a colossal bronze elephant fountain be cast from guns captured at his victorious Battle of Friedland, for the site where the Bastille once stood.
10. AFRICAN CULTURES
Many African cultures revere the African Elephant as a symbol of strength and power. It is also praised for its size, longevity, stamina, mental faculties, cooperative spirit, and loyalty. South Africa, uses elephant tusks in their coat of arms to represent wisdom, strength, moderation and eternity. The elephant is symbolically important to the nation of Ivory Coast ; the Coat of arms of Ivory Coast features an elephant head escutcheon as its focal point.