Elephant: 28 amazing things you didn’t know about

Elephants have long been known to be amongst the most intelligent animals in the world. Numerous studies have proved them to have problem-solving skills individually and cooperatively.

They can use tools and communicate within a complex social structure. Additionally, they have shown a range of behaviors like happiness, grief, aggression, empathy, and fear. But that’s not it, there are more to know about these hulking masses.

Young calf having fun in water

Here are some answers to the frequently asked questions about the elephants on the internet.

What are 5 interesting facts about elephants?

  1. Elephants can listen with their trunk and feet
  2. Baby Elephants also known as calves can stand within 30 minutes of birth.
  3. Elephant’s trunk is a flexible extension of their nose and upper lip.
  4. They have the longest eyelashes in the world.
  5. Elephants can use their ears to control their body temperature.

What is so special about an elephant?

The thing that makes elephants special is their intelligence. As a mammal, they have the largest brain on earth relative to its size.

Young elephant taking a shower
Young elephant taking a shower

They have a long-lasting memory and can recognize every member of their herd by their smell. Not just the herd, they can even recognize a long-lost human friend they’d bonded with in the past.

They are amongst the few animals on earth that have complex emotions and can be happy, sad, aggressive, angry, and even depressed. In some cases, they also suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

The elephants are often considered to be the real feminists as they have a matriarchal society. The female elephant leads the herd and lives with their children.

What do you call a female elephant?

After reaching the adulthood stage, a female elephant is called a cow. 

The cows of the herd have a 22 months gestation period before they give birth to a single calf that weighs around 200 pounds. These cows can grow up to 11 feet and live up to 60 years if not poached.

How many babies can an elephant have?

After almost 2 years of gestation period, elephants give birth to only one baby at a time. This is because the elephants are big and it takes a longer time to fully grow and develop a calf inside the womb.

However, there have been cases where elephants had twins, but this is only 1% of the total elephant births.

How smart is an elephant?

An elephant carries 257 billion neurons in its brain of which 5.6 billion are present in its cerebrum and the remaining 251 in its cerebellum. When compared with 86 billion neurons in the human, 16 billion are in our cerebrum and the rest are in the cerebellum. 

It is one of the smartest mammals on earth with about one-third the number of cerebral neurons as humans. Due to this, they have a long-lasting memory and can recognize their friends even after 23 years of separation. 

They can also sense and hear sounds using their trunk and feet which makes them alert from the poachers and other dangers of nature.

What are elephants scared of?

Elephants are scared of anything that move around their feet regardless of its size. They get startled by any rodent or creature that moves past them in a hurry, whether it’s a dog, a mice or any other creature.

Joshua M Plotnik, an elephant behavior researcher said, “In the wild, anything that suddenly runs or slithers by an elephant can spook it.”

Are elephants friendly to humans?

Elephants are about as friendly as humans. This means they can be incredibly friendly. Also extremely hostile and violent. Elephants are self-aware animals and are highly intelligent. This means they are incredibly dangerous too – just like us humans.

Elephant enjoying body spa in India
Elephant enjoying body spa in India

An elephant’s personality depends on its genetics and its life events – just as with us. In general, wild elephants aren’t fond of humans. And there isn’t the slightest reason why they shouldn’t hate us.

As for cordiality with one other – that depends on family affiliation, age, and sex (again, just like us).

Why are elephants afraid of mice?

The elephants are scared of mice because of their quick and frantic movements around their feet. 

When do elephants hug?

Elephants hug each other while consoling their comrades in distress. They hug by wrapping their trunks around each other or by putting them into each other’s mouths and offer physical caresses to those feeling sad or upset.

A stress-inducing situation might be a mice rustling or the lion’s roar. The elephants are also known to celebrate the births and mourn their deads

Why do elephants destroy trees?

The elephants destroy trees for the immediate, subsequent consumption of edible parts of these trees, that are over the reach of their feeding point. Excessive damage to trees is more likely due to sexual or social factors such as a training exercise for contests with tusks. 

This destroying of trees is mostly done by the bull elephants. However, more behavioral analysis and experiments are needed to understand this phenomenon and its implications for conservation.

Why are elephants killed?

An average of 100 elephants is killed every day by poachers for their ivory tusks, meat, and body parts. These tusks are then traded illegally into Asian markets, mostly China at a very high-profit margin.

Even after the international ban on targeted poaching and smuggling of elephants ivory, these tusks are still carved into jewelry and ornaments and sold all across the world.

Do elephants die when their tusks are removed?

Elephants die when their tusks are removed because one-third of their tooth which is embedded inside their skull is made of nerves and tissues. So to remove the ivory tusks, the entire tooth must be carved out, which leads to hemorrhage and eventually death of the elephants.

Elephant dead due to the removal of ivory tusk by poachers
Elephant dead due to the removal of ivory tusk by poachers

These tusks are removed by the poachers by taking down the full-grown elephants using poison darts and rifles. Then they gauge out the ivory tusk from their head while they are still alive. This causes a slow painful death to them.

What animal can kill an elephant?

Lions are the only predators besides humans that can kill an elephant. One male lion can easily overpower a young calf, whereas two male lions are enough to take down a fully grown elephant.

Other predators like tigers and hyenas don’t usually hunt elephants due to their large size, however, a few cases have been discovered in the Jim Corbett National Park, where the tiger has attacked and killed baby elephants.

Can an ant really kill an elephant?

A single ant cannot kill an elephant but colonies of ants can. These organized ants usually swarm into the elephants’ trunk which is full of highly sensitive nerves and bite at their weak point where it hurts the mosts.

This usually happens when an elephant grabs an ant-filled branch. Thus, whenever they get the slightest indications of these troublesome tiny creatures, they try to maintain their distance. In some ways, these ant colonies have helped to save the ecosystems of the savanna from the damages of bull elephants.

Why do elephants get angry?

The high rise in the level of testosterone in bull elephants during musth makes them angry, aggressive, and unpredictable. The testosterone levels can be increased up to 60 times when they are aggressive.

The other reasons behind angry elephants are the poachers. These poachers kill the oldest and the largest elephants that take the lead in the herd. This means that more inexperienced young elephants are forced to look after themselves without any guidance.

This has led to delinquent generations of elephants with gangs of angry and aggressive young males with an appetite for violence towards each other and other species. 

If an elephant has a bad experience with people, his behavior will be adjusted accordingly. Either more fearful or aggressive, depending upon its personality.

Do elephants kill other animals?

Elephants kill other animals mostly rhinos, for the competition of food. 

The wild bull elephants can impale or kick any animal that comes to their way or animals they have bad experiences with. Despite it being cruel, it is the way of the bush.

Do elephants like music?

Elephants love music and musical instruments like drums and harmonicas. The study says that when elephants are made to play an instrument, they are more likely to keep track of the rhythm than their human counterparts. 

A conservationist named Richard Lair also created an orchestra for elephants called the Thai Elephant Orchestra. He created it to harness the creative power of elephants.

Why do elephants lift one leg?

While listening to the signals from the ground, they put their weight on the front feet and sometimes also lift one foot off the ground. 

Elephant lifting one leg up
Elephant lifting one leg up

According to Caitlin O’Connell-Rodwell, a research associate at Stanford University School of Medicine, elephants use vibration-sensitive nerve cells in the feet to carry seismic signals directly to another part of the brain called the somatosensory cortex.

How can you tell if an elephant is happy?

You can tell if an elephant is happy by looking at its tail. If it swishes side to side (like a dog), this means they are happy.

Do elephants get depressed?

Elephants get depressed when they are kept in captivity for a longer period. An elephant is a wild animal, keeping them in captivity and treating them inhumanely can very much affect their mental health and cause neurotic depression.

In some cases, after getting released from captivity, they suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder throughout their remaining life.

Can elephants hear better than humans?

An elephant can distinguish between the two sounds with a difference of 0.75 Hz, whereas humans can differentiate between sounds that are at least 2 Hz apart. 

Humans can only use their ears to hear sounds, while an elephant can use its feet and trunk along with its ears to listen to sounds and vibrations. This is due to the presence of certain sensory neurons, that help them differentiate between the slightest of differences.

Do elephants laugh?

Elephants do laugh to express their joy, and their laughter sounds just like a human baby giggling madly.

Young calf laughing and enjoying the shower
Young calf laughing and enjoying the shower

It is uncommon to find a fully grown elephant laugh however, you can find many videos of young elephants (calves) chuckling. This generally happens when they are in their comfort zone or with a fellow mate they trust blindly. It is hard for someone to just go up to an elephant and try to make it laugh.

Are elephants born blind?

Elephants are born completely blind and are well cared for by the matriarchs of their herd. However, their vision starts to grow slowly throughout the years. 

Even after growing a vision over time, a fully grown elephant can see only up to 25 feet of distance. 

Do elephants remember you?

Regardless of its poor eyesight, an elephant can remember and recognize you or its fellow mates by its touch, scent, and sound even after a long period of separation.

 An elephant’s memory is the key to its survival. Their sensory organ of smell makes them recognize their long-lost comrades or any human they have interacted with, even if it has spent only a short period of time together.

This helps them defend their herd when they see or smell an unfamiliar elephant or any other creature including poachers.

Do elephants fart?

Both African and Asian elephants fart and produce around 2500 liters of methane every day. This is due to their plant-based diet which gets fermented in the back of their digestive system hence producing a stinkier fart. 

Some also believe that they get their revenge by farting on another elephant’s head.

Can elephants puke?

Elephants can puke in case of herbicide poisoning. This is mainly due to the consumption of poisonous plants. In most cases, if an elephant gets sick, it is almost impossible for it to recover back to normal.

While vomiting, the risk of food particles getting lodged in their trunk is high, which could cause infection and would probably kill the animal.

Can elephants be tamed?

Elephants are wild animals and thus cannot be tamed or domesticated. You cannot bring in this wild beast home and tame them like dogs or cats.

Elephant in chains as a part of training crush
Elephant in chains as a part of training crush

If you see a domesticated elephant in a zoo or at a circus, it is either due to their birth in captivity around humans or because someone put them in chains against their will and restricted their freedom by force, also known as training crush. A process to break the animal’s spirit and bring them to a point of submission before the trainer.

Why should we protect elephants?

The biggest reason to protect elephants is that they are the engineers of the ecosystem. They use their tusk and feet to dig deep underground holes for water, which fulfills the need of other animals too.

An elephant can eat up to 200 kgs a day and spend most of their time eating plants and vegetations, which also consists of seeds, and in return transport these plant materials in their gut and give out dung mounds that are rich in nutrients and provide plenty of food for small insects. 

They travel long distances up to 60 kilometers carrying these plants and then dump them at different places dispersing all the seeds. Since elephant dungs are rich in nutrients, they are also good fertilizers that allow them seeds to grow, which creates new food and habitat for other small animals.

These large mammals are also a reason for tourist attraction for many South Asian and African countries.

ALSO READ: Top 10 animals with longest eyelashes.

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