Welcome to the magnificent world of African elephants – the gentle giants with ears so big, you'll wonder if they've tuned into the latest gossip on the savannah radio! These large animals are the four-legged superstars of the African landscape, boasting impressive trunks, a love for mud baths, and a memory that puts your smartphone to shame. In this blog I will unravel the quirky and fascinating facts that make African elephants not just the largest land animals but also the life of the pachyderm party! So, grab your imaginary safari hat and join me on this journey into the delightful life of these lovable pachyderms.
Elephants are one of my favourite animals to see while out on safari. Unlike the predators (which I also LOVE) elephants only sleep for about 4 hours in the day, this means that they are awake for 20 hours of the day. What I love about them is that there is always something to see, they are always doing something. Whether its feeding and watching the way they use their feet, tusks and trunk to do so on various vegetation or interacting with one another, they are simple spectacular! So, just sit back, relax and observe...
Love for Mud Baths:
Elephants love taking mud baths. Not only does this behaviour help them cool down and protect their skin from the sun, but the dried mud also acts as a natural sunscreen and insect repellent. Another reason why elephants love mud baths is because unlike us humans who have sweat glands, elephants don't. This means that by throwing wet mud on their bodies, when the wind blows over them, it cools them down, just like how sweat works when us humans are warm, and a breeze blows over us.
Unlike hippos who live the majority of their lives in the water yet cannot swim, elephants can! Despite their large size, elephants are excellent swimmers and can traverse long distances in water. They use their trunks as snorkels, allowing them to breathe while swimming. I have personally watched elephants swim across large rivers in Africa such as the Mighty Zambezi River. The amazing thing is when a herd swims across a large section of water, they will often keep the youngsters and babies in the middle of the herd, it keeps the youngsters safe from washing down the river in the current and also allows the adults to keep an eye on them and help them in the deeper channels of the water.
Distinctive Fingerprint-like Wrinkles:
Like human fingerprints, the wrinkles on an elephant's skin are unique to each individual. Researchers often use these distinct patterns to identify and track elephants in the wild.
Unique Finger-like Protrusions:
The tip of an elephant's trunk has two finger-like protrusions that are incredibly dexterous. This allows them to grasp and manipulate objects with great precision. An elephants trunk is extremely powerful yet they can also use it very delicately, from breaking branches to picking up tiny seed pods, their trunks can do it all. So what allows them to have such a versatile trunk? Well, African elephant have roughly 40 000 muscles in their trunk that aid them in feeding, fighting, showing affection to other herd members or be it a snorkel when they are in water systems.
Elephants have a unique type of dentition known as hypsodont teeth, which means their teeth have high crowns and continuously grow throughout their lives. This is an adaptation to their herbivorous diet, which can be abrasive and wears down their teeth. Elephants have 6 sets of teeth in their lifetime, all of which last for different periods of time, they develop their final set of teeth between the age of 35 and 40 years of age.
Tool for Smelling Water:
Elephants use their trunks to detect water sources from great distances. By lifting their trunks and letting the scent particles drift toward their highly sensitive olfactory receptors, they can locate water hidden underground. I always find it amazing at man made waterholes, especially at lodges, when the pump is turned on for fresh water, literally minutes later elephants come rushing in to quench their thirst with the freshly pumped water.
Natural Sunscreen Secretion:
Something not many people know... African elephants have specialized glands in their skin that secrete a substance known as "elephant sunscreen." This secretion acts as a natural protection against the harsh African sun and helps keep their skin healthy.
Ability to Sympathize:
Elephants have displayed empathetic behavior towards other members of their herd, showing concern for injured or distressed individuals. They may use their trunks to touch and comfort ailing companions. I have personally observed this out in the wild whether it has been an injured individual or a young calf that may be struggling, visually I could see the other elephants showing emotion and trying to help the individuals out.
Remarkable Pregnancy Awareness:
Pregnant elephants have been observed showing a keen awareness of their condition. They may modify their behavior, seeking out the company of older, experienced females, suggesting a social support system during pregnancy which is incredible considering there gestation period is 22 months!
Advanced Social Learning:
Elephants exhibit advanced social learning, where knowledge is passed down from one generation to the next. They can learn from the experiences of their elders, aiding in their survival in the wild.
I hope you found the above facts interesting and thank you for taking the time to read this blog as elephants truly are magnificent animals.
Until next time,
Amboseli and Masai Mara Safari
One of the very best places across the entirety of Africa, to see elephants, is Amboseli national Park in Kenya. What's more is that this safari not only visits Amboseli but also the Wild Eye Mara Camp in the world-renowned Mara Triangle.