Fun facts for World Elephant Day
Fun facts for World Elephant Day An elephant cools itself using sand. (Federico Gambarini/Corbis/Flickr/brittanyhock)
Fun facts for World Elephant Day
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Elephants are truly incredible animals. Sunday, August 12 is World Elephant Day, a day to spread awareness to help save elephants. What do you know about elephants? Here are some facts that you may not know.

African elephant populations are sometimes thought to differ only by the location of the animals. But evolutionarily speaking, that’s not true. Forest and savannah elephants are as separate genetically as Asian elephants and woolly mammoths.

The elephant’s closest living relative is the rock hyrax. It is a small furry mammal. It lives in rocky landscapes across sub-Saharan Africa and along the coast of the Arabian peninsula.

African elephants are the largest land mammals on the planet. The females of this species undergo the longest pregnancy—22 months.

We know that elephants are large, but did you know that they can be turned off by the smallest of critters? One study found that they avoid eating a type of acacia tree that is home to ants. Underfoot, ants can be crushed. But an elephant wants to avoid getting the ants inside its trunk, which is full of sensitive nerve endings.

Don’t feed an elephant peanuts. Elephants don’t like peanuts. They don’t eat them in the wild, and zoos don’t feed them to their captive elephants.

Female elephants live in groups of about 15 animals that are all related. They are led by a matriarch, usually the oldest in the group. She’ll decide where and when they move and rest. She’ll decided this day to day and season to season.

Male elephants leave the matriarch groups between age 12 and 15. But they aren’t loners—they live in all-male groups. In dry times, these males will form a linear hierarchy. It helps them avoid injuries that could result from competing for water.

Asian elephants don’t run. Running requires lifting all four feet at once, but elephants filmed in Thailand always kept at least two on the ground at all times.

An African elephant can detect seismic signals with sensory cells in its feet. They can also “hear” these deep-pitched sounds when ground vibrations travel from the animal’s front feet, up its leg and shoulder bones and into its middle ear. The elephant can determine the sound’s direction by comparing the timing of signals received by each of its front feet. 

Elephants have passed the mirror test—they recognize themselves in a mirror. Other animals that can recognize themselves in a mirror include Like great apes, magpies and dolphins. Human toddlers have also passed that test. 

Elephants can get sunburned, so they take care to protect themselves. “Elephants will throw sand on their backs and on their head. They do that to keep them from getting sunburned and to keep bugs off,” said Tony Barthel. He is curator of the Elephant House and the Cheetah Conservation Station at Smithsonian’s National Zoo. How do elephants protect their young? The adult elephants will douse them in sand and stand over the little ones as they sleep.

Elephants have evolved a sixth toe, which starts off as cartilage. It is attached to the animal’s big toe but is converted to bone as the elephant ages.

Some farmers in Kenya protect their fields from elephants by lining the borders with beehives. Not only are their crops saved, but the farmers also get additional income from the honey.

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Which of these facts about elephants had you heard before? Where did you learn that fact?
Write your answers in the comments section below

  • JoseG-ilc
    8/14/2018 - 07:48 p.m.

    I had heard elephants live in groups of fifteen, but elephants can not run is new for me.

  • PunpunT-eri
    8/15/2018 - 06:17 a.m.

    The elephant is the largest land animals.
    I know that at school my teacher told me.

  • RosaG-ilc
    8/16/2018 - 04:50 p.m.

    I didn't know that elephants don’t like peanuts. When I was child, I watched that in cartoon movies.

  • MajoR-ilc
    8/19/2018 - 07:49 p.m.

    I have heard about the sixth toe. I learned it in high school when we were talking about mammals. One thing that suprised me was that Elephants don not like peanuts. I was sure that they eat them.

  • Neveahh-orv
    8/21/2018 - 11:59 a.m.

    The fact that i knew was that elephants have 6 toes i learned that from some one at a zoo he told me that.I really thought that elephants would have more feet then that but they do not.Elephants out of all animals are my favorite animals and i like elephants and pandas.

  • JoaquinG
    8/21/2018 - 10:50 p.m.

    In my opinion, this article was really intriguing. I learned a lot about elephants. One of the most interesting thing I learned was that elephants can sense seismic movements with their feet, initially the sound waves travel up their feet and into their middle ear. I'm definitely going to celebrate the next "Elephant Day" on August 12, the day before my mum's b-day.

    Joaquin G. NYC

  • kinniel-orv
    8/22/2018 - 12:22 p.m.

    It's cool that elephants have their own day like a celebration for them.

  • calebr-orv2
    8/22/2018 - 12:28 p.m.

    I learned that elephants like peanuts on a show about animals and that they use their trunks to drink and eat food.

  • genesisd-orv
    8/23/2018 - 11:35 a.m.

    that African elephants are the largest land mammals on the planet i don't remember where i learned this fact

  • karlised-orv
    8/23/2018 - 11:50 a.m.

    I have heard that female Elephants go through really long pregnancies. That they usually travel in packs or herds, and that they liked peanuts. But I guess they don't. I wonder how that rumor got spread.

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