For many people, elephants epitomise an African safari. From a young age, many children read about them in storybooks and adore them from the first moment. Their big stature, tactical trunks, and human-like qualities make them a point of interest for both avid and novice safari goers alike. And witnessing them in their natural bush setting doesn’t grow old.
But exactly how much do you know about them? Robin Pope Safaris’ Luangwa Safari House is known for their herds of elephants trumpeting through camp, and the staff there have learned a thing or two about them as a result.
Here are a five jumbo sized facts just in time to celebrate Africa’s grey giants this upcoming World Elephant Day!
1. Elephants communicate with each other
Elephants communicate in a low frequency sound wave of which the majority is below our hearing spectrum. The hungry tummy rumble is the portion of the sound that we can hear. However, it has been suggested that there are over 23 different vocalisms – of which 80% are used exclusively by the cows.
2. They have a mysterious temporal gland
For many guides, the temporal gland is the least understood and most discussed part of the elephants anatomy. It is a gland between the eye and the ear, which often leaves a stain on the side of the face. Whilst there is not much information about this, the secretion in African elephants is explained in most books to be related to stress. However, traditionally in Africa, people have linked this secretion to male elephants being in musth. In some studies of African elephants only 3-4% of the male’s secretions can be linked to the musth cycle, so this secretion could be a pheromone secretion linked to another form of communication.
3. They have a mighty trunk
The mighty trunk is a very complicated instrument, which can take youngsters up to 6 months to use properly. Although watching a young ellie experiment with his is highly comical, it can also give people a more accurate idea about the age of a baby. The trunk is constructed of over 40,000 muscles and can pick up one part in 600,000 in terms of scent. Tactical is an understatement!
4. You can talk to them
Although it would be deemed silly to sit down and have a conversation with an elephant, it has been noticed that elephants can interpret and understand the human tone of voice. A calming suggestion or a more forceful tone can sometimes make quite a difference on the outcome of a situation during a game drive.
5. They walk on tiptoes
The elephant’s foot is formed in such a way that they are essentially walking on tiptoes, with a tough fatty part of connective tissue for the sole. This spongy “shock absorber” is what helps elephants move through the bush so quietly. They have five toes – not all of which have a toenail – that are buried inside the flesh of the foot. The circumference of the forefoot is approximately equal to half the shoulder height.
There you have it! Five ‘elephantastic’ facts inspired by the 80 plus elephants that frequent the nearby lagoon at Robin Pope Safaris’ Luangwa Safari House.