Written by Aleema Noormohamed – Marketing Executive of Gamewatchers Safaris and Porini Camps
The elephant, the planet’s largest terrestrial mammal, is a fascinating creature but it remains an unfortunate target of the poaching underworld. Our various conservancies across Kenya, are constantly monitored to help keep poaching at a minimum level however it seems a lack of understanding and education continues to enlist ignorant individuals to fold into the realm of wildlife’s biggest misdeed. The children of the future will only remember elephants as the dinosaurs of the 21st century if this continues.
It is up to save them. To do this we have to start with education and knowledge, so in light of that here are 10 facts everyone should know about elephants.
1. There are three distinct species of elephant left in the world: The Asian elephant and Africa has the forest and savannah elephant species.
2. The word “elephant” comes from the Greek word “elephas” which means “ivory”.
3. The elephant’s gestation period is 22 months – longer than any other land animal in the world. A new born human baby weighs an average of 7 pounds while a new born elephant baby can weigh up to 260 pounds! The baby can stand up shortly after being born.
4. The oldest known elephant in the world lived for 86 years (1917 – 2003). The average lifespan of an elephant is from 50 to 70 years. The largest known elephant was shot in Angola in 1956 and weighed about 24 000 pounds! It had a shoulder height of 3.96 metres!
5. The tusks of an elephant are modified incisors that grow throughout an elephant’s lifetime. An adult male’s tusks grow about 7 inches a year. Tusks are used to dig for salt, water and roots, to debark trees, to clear a path and occasionally in fights. Additionally, they are used for marking trees to establish an elephant’s territory.
6. The elephant’s trunk is a fusion of its nose and upper lip. It is the elephant’s most important limb. The trunk is sensitive enough to pick up a blade of grass and strong enough to rip the branches off a tree. The trunk is also used for drinking – the elephant can suck up to 14 litres of water at a time and then blow it straight into its mouth!
When bathing, the elephant sucks water to spray on its body. It will then spray dirt and mud on its wet coat, which will dry and act as sunscreen.
7. Elephants have two gaits – a walk and a faster gait that is similar to running. They cannot jump, trot or gallop, however they can swim and use their trunk as a snorkel.
8. The elephant’s very large ears are used to radiate excess heat away from the body.
9. Elephant behaviour is associated with a unique animal intelligence that displays grief, altruism, compassion, self-awareness, play, art and music!
10. There is a structured social order in the elephant’s lifestyle. The females spend their entire lives in tight family groups made up of mothers, grandmothers, aunts, sisters and daughters. The eldest female normally leads the group. Adult males prefer to live a bachelor lifestyle.
Watching elephants go about their business is an incredible moment. Our director captured this incredible footage of a herd of elephants (a really really big herd) in the Ol Kinyei conservancy.
The Amboseli ecosystem is famous for its elephants. After the conservancy of Selenkay was set up in 1997, elephants returned to that area after an absence of 20 years. The Selenkay conservancy, where only two camps, Porini Amboseli Camp and Gamewatchers Adventure Camp, share a space of approximately 13 000 acres maintains a minimum number of guests at any one time. The natural habitat of the Selenkay conservancy is almost untouched leaving the entire area a wildlife haven.
All the elephant photographs above have been taken in our various conservancies – Ol Kinyei, Olare Motorogi, Ol Pejeta and Selenkay Conservancies.