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7 fascinating facts about elephants

Article by GVI


Posted: February 13, 2023

If you’re anything like me, you can never get enough of these gentle giants. African elephants, members of the pachyderm family, are truly one of a kind – their size, intelligence, and emotional capacity never cease to amaze me. Here are our favourite facts about African elephants that you may not know. So get ready to be wowed and inspired by these magnificent creatures!

Elephants are the largest land animals

It’s pretty obvious just by looking at them, but elephants are the largest land animals on the planet! They can weigh up to 5,972 kg and grow up to 4 metres tall at the shoulder. That’s massive! When you see an elephant in person, you can’t help but be in awe of their size and strength.

Elephants have a highly developed brain

Elephants are incredibly smart creatures. They have a large brain that’s proportionate to their body size, much like humans and dolphins. This means they have complex social structures, problem-solving skills, and the ability to remember things and recognize individuals. But that’s not all – scientists have even seen elephants display empathy and mourning behaviour. That’s right, these gentle giants have emotions just like we do! They have been observed comforting one another in times of stress and mourning the loss of a herd member. It’s truly amazing to think about.

Elephants live in matriarchal herds

Elephants are social creatures and live in groups led by the oldest female, known as the matriarch. The bond between elephants is incredibly strong, and it’s not uncommon for female elephants to stay with the same herd for their entire lives. The matriarch will lead the herd to food and water sources and make important decisions for the group. It’s amazing to think about how these large and strong creatures can have such close relationships with one another.

Elephants have a unique way of communicating

Elephants have a unique way of communicating with one another that’s truly fascinating. They produce infrasonic calls, which are sounds at a frequency too low for human ears to hear. These low-frequency sounds can travel for long distances and even through solid objects, allowing elephants to communicate with each other over vast distances. They also use touch, scent, and visual displays to communicate, such as touching each other with their trunks and flapping their ears to signal alarm or aggression. It’s amazing to think about how complex their communication system is.

Elephants use their trunks for many tasks

Their trunks are incredibly versatile and mobile, making them an important tool for elephants. With over 40,000 muscle units, their trunks are both strong and flexible. This allows them to pick up heavy objects and manipulate them with precision, as well as use their trunks for a variety of tasks such as reaching high branches and digging for water. It’s amazing to think about how much they can do with just their trunk!

Elephants are herbivores

Elephants are herbivores, meaning they feed on a variety of plants such as grasses, leaves, bark, and fruit. They consume up to 135 kg of food in a single day and need to drink water every day to support their massive size. In fact, elephants can consume up to 89 litres of water in a single drinking session. That’s a lot of food and water!

Elephants are under threat

Unfortunately, despite their size and strength, elephants are under threat from habitat loss and poaching. The elephant population has declined significantly in recent decades, and both African elephants and Asian elephants are listed as vulnerable on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Poaching for their ivory tusks is also a major threat, as the demand for ivory continues to be a problem. Conservation efforts are underway to protect these magnificent creatures and their habitats, but it’s important for all of us to do our part in supporting these efforts and raising awareness about the importance of preserving these amazing animals.

Elephants are truly magnificent creatures that deserve our protection and respect. So the next time you come across an elephant, take a moment to marvel at their size, intelligence, and emotional capacity. 

It’s up to us to protect these magnificent creatures and their habitats, and if you’re looking to get involved in conservation efforts, consider volunteering with GVI’s elephant conservation programs in Chiang Mai, Thailand or Limpopo, South Africa. Not only will you be doing your part in preserving these magnificent creatures, but you’ll also get to experience the adventure of a lifetime and make new friends along the way. So, if you have the opportunity to see an elephant in person, take it! You’ll have the chance to witness the true majesty of these incredible animals and create memories that will last a lifetime.

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