Sources: ListVerse, Top 10 Facts About Elephants; Science Kids; Out of Africa
- Elephants are some of the most intelligent animals on Earth. Their brains weigh 11 pounds, much more than the brain of any other land animal. Their brains have more complex folds than all animals except whales, which is thought to be a major factor in their intellect.
Elephants commonly show grief, humor, compassion, cooperation, self-awareness, tool-use, playfulness, and excellent learning abilities.
- Elephants demonstrate concern for members of their families; they take care of weak or injured members and grieve over a dead companion.
- Adult elephants have no natural predators. The main risk to elephants is from humans through poaching and changes to elephants’ habitat.
Elephants are vital to their ecosystems. Without elephants, almost 80% of the trees in the African savannah would not exist.
An elephant can use its tusks to dig for ground water. An adult elephant needs to drink around 55 gallons of water a day.
- Elephants can swim – they use their trunk to breathe like a snorkel in deep water.
- Elephants are herbivores and can spend up to 16 hours days collecting leaves, twigs, bamboo and roots.
- Elephants normally only sleep 2 or 3 hours each day because they need to spend time eating to support their huge size, as they can eat up to 330 pounds of vegetation every day.
- Elephants communicate within their herds and between herds many kilometers apart mostly using sounds too low for human ears to perceive and by stamping their feet.
Within their herds, elephants are believed to have the same or similar levels of cooperation as chimpanzees. An elephant herd is considered one of the most closely-knit societies of any animal, and a female will only leave it if she dies or is captured by humans.
- A normal elephant lifespan is 60-80 years, but because of poaching, the average lifespan of elephants in Africa is significantly lower.
- Elephants and humans are the only animals known to have death rituals. If an elephant becomes sick, herd members will bring it food and help support it as it stands. If it dies, they will try to revive it with food and water for a while. Once it is clear that an elephant is dead, the herd will become very quiet. They often dig a shallow grave and cover the deceased elephant with dirt and branches, and will stay at the grave for days afterwards.