Everyone loves elephants, but how much do you know about these magnificent mammals? Brush up on some fun facts here, then visit the Zoo on Saturday, August 19th for a Zoo day dedicated to the largest animal on land.
1.) Elephants Are Eating Machines.
Elephants are the largest land mammals on the planet. Those huge bodies need a lot of fuel, and that fuel comes directly from plants. Believe it or not, these giant mammals are herbivores. Elephants like to snack on roots, bark, grass, fruit, and hay. They eat for 12-18 hours per day and consume between 150 and 600 pounds of food. By contrast, most people eat about 3 pounds of food per day.
2.) They’re also super slurpers.
Hydration, hydration, hydration! For an elephant, staying hydrated is just as important as staying well fed. An elephant consumes up to 50 gallons of water each day. That’s more than would fill a bathtub! Meanwhile, people are advised to drink 8 glasses of water per day, which adds up to a mere ½ gallon.
3.) Trunks are tricky.
At first, baby elephants don’t know what to do with their trunks. Just as a human baby struggles to walk, elephant babies struggle to control their trunk and may even trip over it as it drags along the ground! It takes a while to get used to having such a long nose (the trunk is a modification of the upper lip and nose combined) because it contains over 100,000 individual muscles — compared to the human body having, at most, 800 muscles. The trunk is capable of many complex movements that range from pushing a tree over to picking up a marble.
4.) Elephants bathe in mud.
Why pay for expensive spa treatments when you can make your own? Elephants slather mud all over their skin to protect it from sunburn and insect bites. Mud also provides a refreshing cool- down and helps seal moisture within an elephant’s skin. Elephant mud masks aren’t a treatment for wrinkles, though. In fact, wrinkles are a critical adaptation for elephants to stay cool! Baggy and wrinkled skin has more surface area, which allows for greater dispersion of body heat. This helps keep an elephant cool. The folds of wrinkled skin also tend to trap moisture, which keeps an elephant cool. Who knew having wrinkles could be such a good thing?
5.) Elephants make great BFFs.
Elephants form strong bonds and live by the saying, “family first.” They are known to comfort each other, celebrate births, and mourn deaths. Herds are made up of adult females and their offspring. While males eventually leave the herd to go their own way, female family members stay together for life. Everyone — mothers, aunts, sisters, cousins — helps to raise babies. Sharing the care (called allo-mothering) provides extra support and protection for calves and also teaches future elephant mothers how to care for babies.