A trunkload of love – World Elephant Day

“We admire elephants in part because they demonstrate what we consider the finest human traits: empathy, self-awareness, and social intelligence. But the way we treat them puts on display the very worst of human behaviour.” Graydon Carter, Editor of Vanity Fair.

The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) says the African Elephant will be extinct by 2040! So, action needs to be taken to save one of the globe’s most iconic creatures. One way all nature lovers can contribute is to spread awareness of elephants by supporting World Elephant Day. This day has been created to bring the world together to help and honour elephant!

Let’s celebrate the African Elephant of the Madikwe by getting to know them a little better. Here are some quirky, fascinating and possibly unknown facts about the largest animal walking the Earth.

The official name of the African Elephant is Loxodonta Africana. Loxo means slanted, and donta means teeth. This means that they chew in a forward-back motion as opposed to circular.

When elephant are young, they have a set of milk teeth. They lose these, and the adult ones come in. Did you know that elephant lose their molars--not once in their lives--but six times! Each new set is larger, which means they can chew even tougher vegetation like roots, shoots, and tree bark.

Elephant have a total of 26 teeth, their tusks counting for two.

Elephant tusks never stop growing. They keep developing, and on average female tusks increase 7cm and males 11cm each year.

Tusks are made up of two layers. The outer layer is enamel, and the middle is dentine - which is similar to human teeth. The difference is that elephant dentine is Type B which is more coarsely grained than ours.

Male tusks grow at an outward angle, and female tusks grow at an inward angle. So when you are out on a game drive, this is a quick way to identify the sex of an elephant.

Elephant skulls are curious because they are not made of solid bones. Instead, the skull bones are made up of honeycomb structures.

Elephant have seven neck vertebrae.

The African Elephant has four toenails on its front feet and three toenails on its back feet.  (Indian Elephant have four toenails on their front feet and four toenails on their back feet).

Elephant have the longest gestation period of all mammals, carrying their young for 18 to 22 months before birth. When the babies arrive, they are about one meter tall and weigh between 80 – 120kg.

Elephant communication is interesting. The well-known trumpeting call of an elephant indicates anger or alarm. But have you heard of “rumbles”? These are a range of low-frequency sounds that elephants use to communicate different messages to one another. Scientists have found that rumbles travel through both the air and the ground. This type of communication is called infrasound. Unfortunately, this low-frequency sound is below the lower limit of human audibility, so we can’t hear these elephant messages. Sixteen to eighteen hours, or nearly 80% of an elephant's day, is spent feeding. This allows elephant to eat up to 170kg of vegetation daily - with only about two-thirds are digested.

Elephants can’t jump.

If you’ve ever seen an elephant up close, you know that these animals are truly majestic in the bush. Elephant are wise, friendly, fascinating beasts. Unfortunately, despite how beloved elephant are, poaching and environmental destruction have taken a toll on them, and the African Elephant is classified as a vulnerable species.

This World Elephant Day, join Morukuru Family in acknowledging that elephant are part of our global heritage. Distinctive, intelligent and sensitive, socially complex and powerful but now under threat.