Elephants may be the largest land animal in the world, but they’re actually really gentle creatures. Sadly, their numbers have been declining due to habitat loss, fragmentation, and poaching. Here are 5 fascinating elephant facts that will hopefully give you a greater appreciation for these animals. After all, education is the first step towards conservation!
1. Right or Left “Trunked”?
Studies into animal handedness have shown that much like humans, elephants also display handedness. Some elephants display a preference of using one side of their body, their dominant side, over the other. In humans, the split is 90% right-handed and 10% left-handed, but the preference is about 50:50 in elephants. Try and see if you can spot an elephant twisting their trunk to the left or to the right. You might just figure out whether they’re right or left trunked!
2. 22-Month Gestation Period
An elephant has a gestation period of 22 months – the longest in any land mammal. On top of that, a newborn elephant can weigh anywhere between 90 to 120kg. Imagine carrying that weight with you for such a long time! Elephant calves are born blind but they’re capable of standing just shortly after birth. Sadly, their long reproductive rate is one of the reasons why their numbers are decreasing.
3. Elephants Grieve Deeply
Elephants are not the only animals that grieve but the way they grieve and display emotions are remarkably human-like. As they live in very close-knit herds, so when a member of their herd dies, the whole herd mourns their death. They shed tears and even mourn the death long after one of their herd passes on. These sensitive creatures also have their own “funeral” ritual, where they break off branches, leaves, grass and use dirt to cover the body.
4. Elephants Can Snorkel
An elephant’s trunk is really useful, it’s used to grab things, smell, drink and even give themselves a dust bath. On top of that, they can use their trunks to breathe as they snorkel underwater. It’s believed that elephants are able to submerge themselves completely underwater because of their special lung anatomy. Their lung tissue is denser compared to other mammals, allowing them to swim across rivers easily.
5. Elephant Matriarchy
Elephants are matriarchal, so the oldest female usually leads the herd. The herds can range from 8 to 100 elephants in size and consist of mostly females. Male elephants stay in the herd until they’re 12 to 15 years old before leaving the herd. These male elephants go on to lead solitary lives or stay with other male elephants temporarily.