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Updated by Joanna James on Jun 23, 2019
Headline for Top 10 Facts about Elephants – The More You Know
Joanna James Joanna James
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Top 10 Facts about Elephants – The More You Know

Elephants, are the largest terrestrial mammal and unfortunately, a target to the poachers for its ivory. Here are some facts to remind how amazing they are and why they need to be protected.


How they got their name

"Elephas" is a Greek word which means ivory. Hence, the name elephants.


Elephant pregnancies last 22 months

That is the longest gestation period for any mammal! The mother elephant carries its offspring for 22months and when they are ready, the new-born elephants weigh approximately 250 pounds! Due to the prolong gestation and the fact the new-born needs to be well taken care of, the usual interval between pregnancies is more than 4-5 years. This is why it takes a longer time for the elephant population to replenish.


They can't jump!

Elephants simply cannot jump. They, however, can run really fast (about 40km per hour). So, essentially, they only can walk or run or swim.


Their ears are not just for hearing

Their large and very thin ears are their saviours from the hot, humid climates they tend to live in. They aid in radiating excess heat away from the body, thanks to the many blood vessels present.


They are endangered

Elephants are sought out by poachers for their ivory. A worldwide ban on ivory trade was imposed in 1990 which has helped but illegal poachers still seem to be thriving. As a tourist and a general citizen of the Earth, to ensure that you do your part in supporting these animals and contribute to causes that protect them. For example, when visiting elephant sanctuaries or hotels, ensure the elephants are ethically treated and not harmed. In Thailand, Anantara Golden Triangle Elephant Camp & Resort is a well-known hotel in Chiang Rai as they offer tourists interaction with elephants in their own natural habitat and have sponsorship programmes to help the elephants in the vicinity.


They are very intelligent

Their brains weigh about 12 pounds! (Compared to the 4 pounds of an average human). They have a more evolved degree of self-awareness and are known to be very empathetic towards their herd members. They are able to show grief and sadness when mourning the loss of their family even after months of the loss.


The species

There are only three main species; the Asian elephant, the African bush elephant and the African forest elephants. At present, there are about 700,000 African elephants and only 32,000 Asian elephants.


Elephant herds- Female dominance!

They have quite a different social structure where the males and females live apart and only remain together during the mating season. A typical herd usually consists of three or four females and their offsprings. The herd follows the lead of the matriarch; if an elderly female passes away, she is replaced by her eldest daughter.


Their trunk: an all-purpose tool

The trunk is basically their nose and an extension of their upper lip and is used to breathe, smell, eat, pick objects, a tool of affection and even as a snorkel when swimming. The trunk is made of many muscles and helps the elephant with very precise tasks like shelling a peanut to carrying a 700pound of the log!


They have been around for 50 million years

Elephants are a result of evolution and their ancestors date back to almost 50 million years. This was the time the Woolly Mammoth (if you are a fan of ice-age, you'd be familiar with this!) and North American Mastodon were roaming the earth.