7 Fascinating Insights Into the World of Elephants
ELEPHANTS – Below are seven captivating pieces of information about elephants that will remain ingrained in your memory.
The elephant stands out as one of the most splendid creatures in the animal kingdom. The African savanna elephant, also recognized as the African bush elephant, claims the title of the largest living land mammal in the world, with a weight ranging between 4 to 7 tons and a height of up to 13 feet. In a previous article, we shared some surprising facts about Africa.
Despite their mighty size, the elephant population is under threat, with decades of poaching and ivory trade taking a toll on their numbers. Nevertheless, many people have developed an affection for these highly social animals and are dedicated to their preservation.
What prompts the rapid evolution of certain elephants? What tiny creature fills them with absolute terror? Discover seven fascinating facts about these gentle giants that are bound to leave a lasting impression.
Elephant Pregnancies Last Almost Two Years
Although human pregnancies may appear lengthy at 40 weeks, they are nothing compared to the duration of elephant pregnancies. African elephants birth a solitary calf every four to five years, enduring a 22-month gestation period. Likewise, Asian elephants undergo a similarly extended gestation period and usually produce one calf every three to eight years. This prolonged development period serves to ready the calves for seamless assimilation into the elephant herd soon after their birth.
Elephants Communicate With Inaudible Rumbles
Beyond their trumpeting, elephants communicate through low-frequency rumbles as low as 10 hertz, undetectable to the human ear, though they can be felt akin to powerful bass vibrations. Researchers have constructed an elephant-to-human dictionary based on these rumbles, identifying specific rumbles for greetings, seeking a mate, and locating offspring. The low frequency enables these conversations to travel extensive distances, up to 6 miles, particularly in forest environments that tend to dampen higher frequencies.
Elephants Live in Matriarchal Societies
Once elephants reach maturity, males venture off independently, while females remain in close proximity to their families. Savanna elephants boast a robust social structure, led by the eldest female overseeing a family group of approximately six to 12 members, including her offspring, grandchildren, sisters, and their descendants. These elephant matriarchs, mothers, grandmothers, and aunts, collaborate to nurture their young, forage for food, and protect the herd. Some elephants even nurse offspring not their own, akin to a wet nurse. If the family grows too large, a cousin might break away, yet the new factions stay in touch and continue to share resources.
Fewer Elephants Have Tusks Than a Few Decades Ago
Elephants are frequently targeted by poachers for their ivory tusks, leading to catastrophic consequences for their population. Notably, the proportion of female elephants born without tusks has risen due to the pressure of poaching. While all male African elephants possess tusks, it’s dependent on genetics whether female elephants have them. Prior to 1977, over 80% of female elephants had tusks, whereas after 1992, only about half did. The trend of tuskless elephants is noticeable in other regions with high poaching rates.
Elephant Tusks Never Stop Growing
Elephants begin to develop tusks at approximately 2 years of age, and their tusks continue to grow throughout their lives. Given their potential lifespan of about 60 years in the wild, their tusks can grow exceptionally long, even reaching the ground in some cases, earning them the monikers of “tuskers” or “super tuskers” when their tusks reach around 100 pounds each. While predominantly observed in males, such elongated tusks are not exclusive to them, as evidenced by the passing of a matriarch elephant with spectacular tusks in 2022.
Elephants Can Be Right- or Left-Tusked
Similar to humans, these gentle giants can exhibit a preference for either their right or left tusks, as evidenced by the wear patterns on their tusks. Their tusks serve multiple functions, including digging, lifting objects, gathering food, and engaging in conflicts. With age, the preference becomes more pronounced, as one tusk shows more wear due to more frequent use. While the prevalence of right-tusked elephants slightly outweighs that of left-tusked ones, the difference is not substantial, as suggested by a 2017 survey of nearly 700 elephant tusks.
Elephants Are Terrified of Bees
Despite their imposing size and thick skin, which measures approximately an inch in depth, elephants possess a deep fear of bees, so much so that farmers employ beehives as a natural and humane deterrent. When faced with swarming African honeybees, elephants react by flapping their ears, stirring up dust, and emitting distress calls. Asian elephants display a less dramatic response but still exhibit visible signs of nervousness, such as retreating from the bees, comforting one another, and occasionally slapping their trunks on the ground.