Gigantic. Gentle. Mesmerising. Social. What’s with elephants anyway?
Let’s look at elephants. They’re not simply this large animal that treads the earth as if some prehistoric species, setting down imprints on the land as if one is discovering the footprints of dinosaurs. Elephants are an integral part of nature and their strong bonds with one another is something we humans can learn from.
Elephants are renowned for their intelligence, close family ties and complex social bonds, and they remember for many years other individuals and places – often displayed by their unique ability to source water even when it’s below the ground.
Elephants are amazing!
Elephants can display many human-like traits, such as emotions, intelligence, family togetherness and leadership qualities. This starts with the Matriarch, the elder female elephant who will often lead the rest of the herd, including finding food, water and protecting the herds’ young. No individual or individual personality has more impact on family structure and fortunes than the matriarch.
An elephant family consists of one or more usually related adult females and their immature offspring who feed, rest, move and interact in a coordinated manner and have close and friendly ties. Members of a family show extraordinary teamwork and are highly cooperative in group defence, resource acquisition, offspring care, and decision-making.
To better understand the various types of personalities that exist in individual elephants, Amboseli Elephant Research Project completed a Personality Questionnaire form (developed for people) for the adult members of a herd. Each elephant was rated on a scale of 1-7 on characteristics including: active, aggressive, apprehensive, confident, curious, deferential, eccentric and so on. You can read about the result in the book by the Amboseli Trust for Elephants, The Amboseli Elephants: A Long-Term Perspective on a Long-Lived Mammal.
Did you know?
💪 Males depart from their family anywhere from 9 to 18 years of age.
🤓 Two genetically different African species exist: the savanna elephant and the forest elephant, with a number of characteristics that differentiate them both. The African savanna elephant is the largest elephant species, while the Asian forest elephant and the African forest elephant are of a comparable, smaller size.
😲 A single calf is born to a female once every four to five years and after a gestation period of 22 months—the longest of any mammal.
🥰 Female calves may stay with their maternal herd for the rest of their lives.
💥 Elephant tusks serve many purposes; to protect the elephant’s trunk, lift and move objects, gather food, and strip bark from trees. They can also be used for defence.
The devastating threats to elephants sadly still exist today – including poaching, habitat loss, conflict with humans (including communities & farmers), trophy hunting and the increasing threat of human-impacted climate change that can lead to drought, wild fires and reduced food & water sources.
In 2019, more than 200 elephants died as a result of severe drought in Zimbabwe’s Hwange national Park – a stronghold of the African elephant population. And only recently, the affect of changing climate on elephants and wildlife has been seen in Kenya, where officials have noted the impact of extreme drought on losses to elephant populations.
Between 2001 and 2015, in the midst of the biggest ever poaching crisis, 81,572 elephant trophies (including tusks, hides, feet, tails etc.) were exported out of Africa.
The African forest elephant (Loxodonta cyclotis) is listed as Critically Endangered and the African savanna elephant (Loxodonta africana) listed as Endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™.
The 2016 IUCN African Elephant Status Report provides the most recent reliable estimate of the continental population of the two species combined, at around 415,000 elephants.
What are we doing to this highly intelligent, sociable species? To our planet?
Elephants are worth saving.
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Learning from Elephants on #WorldElephantDay 2022 ….. via @bettersafaris #animals #conservation #education #safari #africaTweet