Elephants are magnificent, fascinating animals. Here are some facts you may not know about them – and two ways to speak out for elephants who are suffering in captivity.
1. They console each other in times of stress by “hugging”.
According to researchers, elephants hug by putting their trunks in each other’s mouths, offering comfort through physical contact.
2. They mourn their dead.
Wild elephants will stand silently at the bodies of their dead companions, sometimes for days on end. Later, they may return and pay homage to their bones.
3. They can recognise themselves in a mirror.
That might not sound like a big deal, but humans learn to do this only when we’re toddlers, and the only other animals who can do it are dolphins, great apes and magpies.
4. They live in matriarchal societies.
“Elephants Herd Amboseli” by Benh LIEU SONG | CC BY-S.A. 2.0
That pretty much makes all elephants feminists, right?
5. Elephants really do have long memories.
In one sanctuary, two elephants, Shirley and Jenny, had an emotional reunion when they met each other again, after having briefly crossed paths 23 years earlier. Elephants also store and pass on a wealth of social and practical knowledge to help them survive.
6. Elephants can point.
Well, obviously their trunks are like huge, custom-made pointing tools. But most animals haven’t mastered this gesture without being taught it, suggesting that elephants are one of the most cognitively advanced species out there.
7. They can listen with their feet.
African elephants can detect rumbling in the ground with sensory cells in their feet. The vibrations travel through their body to their inner ear. They may even use these vibrations to communicate with each other over long distances.
8. They use sunscreen (well, sort of).
“Elephant and Dust” by Vernon Swanepoel | CC BY 2.0
Like us, elephants can get sunburned, so they toss sand over their bodies to protect themselves. They also stop their offspring from getting burnt by standing over them to cast a shadow.
9. Baby elephants suck their trunks in the same way that human babies suck their thumbs.
Too cute! They also have babysitters and make friends for life.
10. They’re environmentally minded.
Elephants are a “keystone species”, meaning that they look after the place where they live, maintaining pathways and access to water, which helps other animals, too.
11. Two elephants need your help.
Given all this evidence about the awesomeness and sensitivity of elephants, it’s obvious that taking them away from their families and locking them up is wrong, which is why we need to speak out for them when they are abused and exploited.
Please speak out for these elephants:
• Mali is the only elephant in the Manila Zoo in the Philippines. She’s been completely alone for 35 years and is suffering from health problems that cause her constant pain. Please send a message asking for Mali to be moved to a sanctuary.
• Sunder is a teenage elephant being kept chained in a poultry shed in India. His imprisonment has caused a national outcry, and PETA India has footage of him being violently beaten by his “keeper”. Join the calls for Sunder to be freed.