10 Things You Need To Know About African Elephants



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 ThinkStockPhotos

ThinkStockPhotos
ThinkStockPhotos
African elephants
are magnificent animals, but it’s about much more than their impressive size or
desirable ivory tusks. Incredible capacities for emotion and strong family ties
make the elephant unique among Africa’s wildlife, but there are even more
attributes you might be interested to learn about these gentle giants. 

They
like to self-medicate too!
Giving birth is hard, and after carrying a baby for 22
months (elephants have the longest gestation period of any mammal), those mamas
are ready to get their kids out already. They’ve figured out that certain
leaves in their natural habitats (from the family boraginaceae – whatever that
means) induce labor, and will munch some down when they feel it’s time to
kickstart the process. Sounds less painful than an epidural, no?
Elephants
will dig graves and mourn their losses
Elephants are some of the only animals besides humans and
monkeys that have death rituals, and it’s pretty incredible to see. Even when a
herd member is sick, they will try to nurse it back to health with food and
water, supporting it as they walk and stand. Once it’s no longer any use,
they’ll create a shallow hole for the body and cover it was sticks and leaves
and stand watch for several days. They’ve also demonstrated signs of depression
after losing herd members with whom they had close relationships, demonstrating
an incredible capacity for empathy.
There
are definitely gay elephants
And oftentimes, the homosexual relationships last longer
than the heterosexual ones. Since African elephants primarily travel with herds
of their own sex, their relationships with the the opposite sex are often
fleeting and purely for procreation (though there are also instances of family
herds in which the mother and father stay together with the baby). But in the
meantime, relationships commonly form between elephants of the same sex, and
include everything from affectionate trunk kissing and intertwining to
mounting.
Elephants
are actually just big nerds
Weighing in at 4,000-6,000 kilograms, elephants have the
heaviest brains of all land animals — five kilograms — and use them. The
complex structure includes a cortex that has just as many neurons as a human
brain, accounting for their incredible problem-solving capabilities, and a
large and complex hippocampus that allows for advanced emotions and memory.
They
only have 4 teeth, but they’re replaceable!
With a diet made entirely of plants, it’s not necessary to
have tons of sharp teeth (no antelope meat for these guys). But even gnawing on
bark and leaves can wear teeth down, so elephants normally have between six or
seven sets of teeth in their lifetime. The new teeth grow in behind the old
ones and slowly push them out the front in pieces. Gross, but also very cool.
They’re
not a fan of bugs
Despite being about a gajillion times bigger than an ant,
elephants really aren’t fans of the bugs, and will take pains to avoid trees
and plants that have big ant farms in them. Ants can crawl up an elephant’s
trunk, which is seriously uncomfortable given the amount of nerve endings in
those things. Farmers have taken to lining their crops with beehives to keep
elephants from eating or trampling the food, banking on their well-known
aversion to bugs.
Elephants
have an amazing capacity for altruism
More than caring for their own, elephants have shown an
amazing ability to recognize other animals in distress and protect them.
Stories have emerged about elephants saving dogs from ditches, protecting
humans whpo have been injured, and even caring for orphans of other species. A
lot of this can be traced back to their extraordinary brains that are eerily
similar to humans’, but they definitely have something that is all their own.
Elephants
take pains to protect their fair skin


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Not necessarily from wrinkles, but even they recognize the
strength of the African sun. Slathering themselves with mud and sand helps
protect their skin from the blistering sun and heat, and also provides a nice
cooling mechanism. The wrinkles themselves even serve an important purpose — as
African elephants lack sweat glands, the wrinkles maximize the skin surface
area that can be cooled and help accelerate the process.
They’ll
mock you mercilessly

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Parrots aren’t the only animals that will mimic what you
say; African elephants use their trunks to make the deep rumbling and
trumpeting noises that most are familiar with, but have also shown the ability
to copy what they hear in their surroundings. Elephants in captivity that were
located near a highway started making truck noises, and some have even been
able to recreate words that their handlers have taught them. They’ll also use
contact calls with one another, creating unique noises that they’ll be able to
recognize even from great distances.
An
elephant’s trunk is cooler than you could ever imagine
With more than 100,000 muscles and no bones (for
comparison’s sake, the human body has less than 800 muscles total), an
elephant’s trunk is seriously flexible and adept at handling just about
anything the animal needs. But not only does it serve as an elephant’s eating
utensil, super-powered smelling tool, and shower head — it can also work as a
snorkel in deep water, show affection for another, and exhibit dominance or
submissiveness. Who needs opposable thumbs, anyway?
Sources: afkinsider.com , HuffingtonPost.com , SmithsonianMag.com,
ElephantsForever.co.za, Wikipedia.org, ReidParkZoo.org, and MarylandZoo.org
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