Lessons with Dad: Elephants

Hello my little curious readers! Today we are going to speak about an intelligent animal which is also the biggest land animal on the planet. This animal is characterised by its long two tusks and its trunk. It cannot be a pet and most definitely cannot be kept indoors. It is generally greyish to brown in colour and has two very big ears. It is known for its very good memory. Can you guess the animal of today’s story? Yes, correct it is the elephant!

This beautiful and big animal species lives in different environments, from savannas to rainforest and even grasslands, swamps and highlands. This means you could spot them during a safari in the middle of a dry desert or in between leaves during an adventure in a forest!

 

Elephants live in 37 countries across Africa and in 13 countries across Asia and just like humans, depending on where they live, they have different characteristics. African elephants tend to be bigger in size while their Asian cousins have more rounded ears.

However, both types are gigantic animals whose males can grow up to 4 meters in height and weigh up to 7 tonnes, whilst females can weigh up to 3.5 tonnes. That’s like the weight of 5 and a half average cars for males and almost three cars for females! Be careful not to get your toes stepped by them, ouch!

 

 

Females carry baby elephants, just like mommies carried us in their belly, yet elephants have to carry them for a bit longer - 22 months, that’s almost two year! Once the baby is born, the females announce their birth by trumpeting it to the others, like a birthday party! Even babies can be heavy, as when they are born they can weigh up to 90kg and can be up to 1 m tall.

However, for being so heavy elephants can run pretty fast as their average is 40mph. To give you an idea, Usain Bolt can run up to 27.44 mph, and that’s the fastest man alive!

Of course, to sustain those big bodies, elephants need to eat a lot and trust me they do. They eat up to 136-272kg of food daily, that’s like a media of 560 boxes of 375g of cereals everyday!

 

Their diet is strictly vegetarian though, since they only eat grass, bark, fruit and roots. From the minute they are born elephants have a natural talent for eating, as babies consume about 13.6 litres of their mothers milk and continue to drink for them up to when they are 10 years old.

They also get pretty thirsty, as they can drink up to a whole bathtub worth of water in a day, or to be more specific, 189 litres, every day.

With all eating and drinking you can imagine what happens.. Yes friends, lots and lots of dung - and when I say lots, I mean up to 150kg daily! EW, better watch where you step!

In order to find all these resources that their bodies need, they walk for most of the day which does not allow them much time to sleep. Can you imagine, walking all day and little sleep? I will have to remember that next time the twins complain about nap time!. So, elephants can walk for up to 195 km per day, although they usually only walk 25 km. However, if you think this distance is not too big, keep in mind that it would equal the length of 62.5 eurostar trains

put together, one after the other. Could you imagine how long it would take you to walk along the side of all these trains?. Has it ever happened to you that you are waiting for the train to arrive and when it finally does, you realise that you are standing on the opposite side of the train. Do you remember how long it takes you to walk all the way to the other end, imaging walking this for 63 times more! Well, this is the distance that elephant walk on average.

One distinguishing characteristic of elephants is a structure called trunk which consists of the fusion of their upper lip and nose. The trunk is so important that it possess 40’000 muscles and it can weigh up to 140 kg. This is because they use it for a variety of things such as grabbing, smelling, drinking, breathing and talking. The coolest thing they do with their trunk is snorkelling. Yes friends, you heard right, they can breath normally under water!!

Additionally, because temperatures in their natural environment get so warm, they use their trunk to suck in water and spray it all over themselves, that looks too much fun! To top it off, they roll themselves into dust to keep their skin protected...now that second part it does not sound so fun!

 

 

 

 

They also use their big ears to radiate heat in order to keep cool. They do so by flapping them, the more they flap the hotter they are.

Another distinctive feature are their very long growing incisive teeth called tusks with which they help themselves dig food, water and bark from trees

Males tusks are bigger than females and they are used to fight sometimes as they can weigh up to 100kg. So let’s try not to make any elephants angry any time soon.

Unfortunately, over the years humans have hunted down elephants for their tusks as they are made up of ivory, which was used for jewellery, sculptures and many other precious things. This made the number of elephants decrease from 1.3 million to 400’000 since the 1970s. Fortunately, now it is illegal to hunt elephants for their ivory as we must protect this beautiful animal. What would be of our world without these beautiful kind giants on it?

Elephants, are also essential in maintaining the environment around them. They do so by spreading seeds through their dung and digging up holes during dry season inside dry riverbeds to create watering holes for them and other animals to drink water from.

 

 

 

Furthermore, elephants are social animals who like to live in groups, called herds, rather than alone. These groups are usually led by the oldest and biggest female elephants, talk about girl power! This is because they have the most experience and knowledge which helps ensure the survival of the group, by teaching them how to protect themselves when in danger and lead the herd towards sources of food and water. Adult male elephants sometimes decide to roam on their own or form smaller all-male groups. However, they tend to never be too far away from the herd.

Elephants are extremely social, they like to talk amongst each other and they practice this a lot! In fact, elephants produce over 70 different sounds to communicate between each other on a variety of occasions: from alerting of danger to comforting their babies. Elephants can also produce a sound that travels to a frequency inaudible to humans, kind of like their secret language! I wonder how could we learn this secret language, Do you have any ideas?

Another very interesting fact about elephants is that they have 6 sets of teeth that grow after one has been used. A bit like humans, when you lose your baby teeth it would be replaced by a definitive adult tooth. Although I am not sure how would you feel going through that process five additional times!.. Usually, by the time elephants are in their 50s they are down to their final set since they live on average for about 70 years.

Well my little curious readers, this time, I am going to leave you with a question. As you probably have heard, when someone has a good memory they say "you have the memory of an elephant”. Do you know why people say this?. I can't wait to read about your answers in our blog .

And for now I wish that you and your family continue to be safe, surrounded by love and peace.

See you next week!

 


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