Today is a very special day: World Elephant Day!
For the past four years, today has served as “a rallying call for people to support organizations that are working to stop the illegal poaching and trade of elephant ivory and other wildlife products, protect wild elephant habitat, and provide sanctuaries and alternative habitats for domestic elephants to live freely.”
I love elephants, in case the name of my blog didn’t make that obvious. I think they are incredibly beautiful and majestic creatures, but they need our help!
To celebrate today, here are some of my favorite facts about some of my favorite animals:
- There are two species of elephant, the African and the Asian elephant. However, there is some suspicion that there might actually be a third species of elephant the roams the forests of Africa. There are under 40,000 Asian elephants in the world, and it is a threatened species, and there are under 400,000 African elephants, and it is a threatened species.
- The African and Asian elephants are the world’s largest and second largest land animals, respectively. Both weight well over 5 tons!
- Elephants are heavily poached around the world, and a single elephant tusk can be sold for an incredible amount of money, usually starting around $15,000.
- The famed elephants of the Ringling Bros. circus performed their final act in May of this year, and have now settled into retirement.
- Around 100 African elephants are killed by poachers every day.
- 2016 has been a bright year for elephants, because it is the first year since 2009 that “the mean estimate of the Proportion of Illegally Killed Elephants (PIKE) dropped below 5 percent for first time since 2009, according to a report prepared for the 17th Conference of the Parties (CoP17) of CITES to be held in Johannesburg in September. PIKE is a key measure of poaching pressure and the 5 percent level is significant as this is considered to be the normal growth rate of elephant populations. So PIKE levels above 5 percent mean that elephant populations are likely to be declining; levels below 5 percent imply the possibility of recovery.”
- Elephants are known to purr like cats in order to communicate.
- If you think your brain is large, don’t flatter yourself. Elephants have the largest brains of any land animal.
- Elephants are able to recognize themselves in mirrors, which is actually a feat limited to only a few species of animals. Only nine species of animals can do this, and humans can only do so after a few months.
- Elephants can spend up to 16 hours eating every day.
- Elephant tusks are actually massive incisors.
- Despite the massive size of elephants, their closest genetic relative is actually the rock hyrax, which is a small and adorable animal.
- An elephant trunk has around 100,000 muscles!
- The gestation period for female African elephants is the longest on earth, clocking in at 22 months.
- Elephants are known to avoid certain types of trees with biting ants “like a kid avoids broccoli,” because they do not want to get ants in their trunks.
- Asian elephants have never been seen running, and always keep at least two feet on the ground at all times.
- Elephants are able to get sunburned, so they throw sand on themselves to protect their skin.
- Elephants actually hate peanuts, and are never fed them in captivity or in the wild.
- Asian elephants can store up to 2.5 gallons of water in their trunks. They don’t drink it through their trunks though. When they are thirsty, they drink it through their mouths.
- Elephants have some of the most sophisticated mourning rituals in nature. They have been “seen crying from both eyes, tears streaming down [their] face[s],” cover their dead in sticks, and “assess how their social group has changed and how to re-evaluate themselves within this new hierarchy.”
- Despite their tiny eyes and poor vision, elephants do in fact have excellent memories.
- The word for ivory in Chinese is 象牙, which literally means “elephant tooth.”
- The myth that elephants are afraid of mice might not be a myth after all. Mythbusters tested it out, and concluded that this myth has more fact behind it than you might think.
Your final fact is that many years ago, I made a website https://sites.google.com/site/indianelephants/ that was designed to showcase my love of these animals.
And there you have it! Happy World Elephant Day!