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14 Elephant facts... 8 of which you didn't know!

Updated: Nov 8, 2018

1. There are three distinct species of elephant left in the world: The Asian elephant and Africa has the Forest and Savannah elephant species. 2. The word “elephant” comes from the Greek word “elephas” which means “ivory”. 3. The elephant’s gestation period is 22 months – longer than any other land animal in the world. A new born human baby weighs an average of 7 pounds while a new born elephant baby can weigh up to 260 pounds! The baby can stand up shortly after being born.

4. The oldest known elephant in the world lived for 86 years (1917 – 2003). LIN WANG was an Asian elephant in captivity and died at Taipei Zoo, Taiwan. The average lifespan of an elephant is from 50 to 70 years. 5. The African elephant is the world’s largest land animal, with males weighing six tonnes on average. 6. The largest recorded individual reached four metres at the shoulder and weighed ten tonnes. 7. The tusks of an elephant are modified incisors that grow throughout an elephant’s lifetime. An adult male’s tusks grow about 7 inches a year.

8. The elephant’s very large ears are used to radiate excess heat away from the body. 9. Elephant behaviour is associated with a unique animal intelligence that displays grief, altruism, compassion, self-awareness, play, art and music! 10. Elephants use their trunks for vocalisation, feeding, drinking, greeting and other social behaviours. 11. There are 150,000 muscles in an elephant’s trunk – that’s more than 230 times the number in a human body.

12. Low-frequency calls allow elephants to communicate over large distances and two-thirds of calls are emitted at a frequency below the range of human hearing. 13. Estimate African elephants in the wild: Approx. 400,000. 14. 20% of Africa’s elephant population is estimated to have been lost over the last ten years and are categorised as Vulnerable (VU).

CommunicationsCommunication is vital to elephants, who rely on a social network for survival. Although elephants can make a very wide range of sounds (10 octaves), they mostly communicate through low frequency sounds called “rumbling.” In fact, elephants are capable of producing and perceiving sounds one to two octaves lower than the human hearing limit. As lower frequency sounds travel farther than their higher counterparts, their range of communication is extensive. Furthermore, elephants have the ability to judge the distance from another elephant based on the pitch of his/her call. As the sound travels over distances, the higher tones will fade out, leaving a lower pitch. This also allows them to sense when a storm is coming.

Mating & MusthThe reasons for its occurrence are not fully understood. The animal is sexually agitated, but musth is not thought to be entirely sexual in nature. Elephants mate outside the musth period and it is not the same as the rutting season common in some other mammals. When in musth, a strong smelling oily secretion flows from a gland above the eye and elephants will also constantly dribble urine. The temporal gland discharge can be quite free flowing and run down the elephant’s face dripping down their chin. While in musth everything changes with the elephant; the way they walk, their interactions with other elephants, the degree of aggression, and as mentioned, the odor they exude. In rare circumstances, if two male elephants in musth cross paths the ensuing fight can turn into a fight to the death. Elephant in musth chase in South Africa. Very terrifying!


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