By Amelia Meyer
Q: Are elephants endangered?
A: There are currently about 600 000 African elephants (including both the Savannah- and the Forest subspecies) and approximately 40 000 Asian elephants roaming the earth. Of these, about 20% are bred in zoos and circuses. In 1979, there were 1.3 million African elephants. Within one decade, this number had dropped by 50% due to poaching. At this time, about 8 elephants were savagely slaughtered every hour for their valuable tusks. Now, however, ivory poaching is banned almost everywhere in the world. This has allowed the numbers to stabilise. Illegal poaching continues to threaten the numbers of animals the world over, but the legal implications have proved to be somewhat of a deterrent.
Q: How much does an elephant weigh?
A: On average, an Asian elephant weighs between 10 000 pounds (4535 kg) and 12 000 pounds (5443 kg). African elephants are slightly larger and heavier, and an African bull can weight up to 13 225 pounds (6000kg).
Q: Are elephants ruminants?
A: Ruminants are mammals that first partly digest food in one stomach, then regurgitate it and chew it further before re-ingesting it. Elephants do not follow this course. Their stomach is used mainly for storage of food, and more digestion takes place in the intestine. In fact, their faeces still contains much of the vegetation that they ate, which means that they need to eat vast quantities of food in order to absorb the necessary amount of nutrients. This is also why their dung is a popular choice for faeces-eating animals much of the nutrition and substance remains fairly intact.
Q: Do elephants have teeth?
A: Yes. Their tusks (tushes in Asian females) are the incisors. A total of 4 molars (two upper and two lower) are situated directly behind these. These molars move back to make space for more molars 6 times in their lives, making a total of 24 molars by the time they have matured completely. These flat, strong teeth allow them to grind vegetation down into a thick pulp rather than having sharp teeth that tear at meat.
Q: How fast can elephants run?
A: Elephants can only run short distances at a time because of their considerable size and weight. They reach a top running speed of approximately 40km (25 miles) an hour. This is a speed that rivals even the fastest humans.
Q: How much weight can an elephant lift?
A: If an adult elephant lifts a weight only using the strength of its mighty trunk, it can lift approximately 300kg. However, they have been shown to be able to carry about 500kg of logs. A leather cord is tied around the logs and the elephant bites on this cord with its molars. It then leans back, using the weight of its body as extra power.
Q: How much do elephants eat and drink?
A: Because the digestive system of elephants does not allow for that many nutrients to be digested, an elephant needs to consume even more food to ensure proper nutrition. On average, an elephant will eat about 300kg of vegetation, seeds, nuts and fruit, and drink about 200l of water every day.
Q: What is the difference between African and Indian Elephants?
A: African Elephants are considerably larger and have very little hair in comparison to the Asian Elephant. The biggest and most easily recognisable difference is the ears and the tusks. The African Elephants have large tusks and large ears, which slightly resemble the African continent. The Indian Elephant has small ears that lie close to the head and their tusks are considerably smaller if they do have any. The head of the Asian Elephant has a distinct dip in the middle when looked at head on.
Q: Are elephants afraid of mice?
A: The notion that these large animals are afraid of a tiny rodent has always played itself out in fictional tales as being quite comical. In ancient times, Pliny the elder reported that elephants would not even eat their straw should a mouse have run out from under it. Recent research has shown that they are, in fact, wary of mice and will back away when confronted with one, but not to the hysterical degree portrayed in many stories. The simple fact is that elephants will back away from something strange, and so this may not be an actual fear of the mouse itself but just of a new experience.
Q: How long are elephants pregnant for?
A: They are pregnant for a period of 22 months, which is by far the longest of all mammals on earth.
Q: Is it true that elephants never forget?
A: Elephants certainly have one of the best memories of the mammalian species, quite possibly due to their larger brains. The question of whether they never forget has been answered in the affirmative and has been backed by science. The matriarchs especially recognise" friendly faces and, the older they are, the better their memory seems to become.
Q: What do elephants use their trunks for?
A: The elephant trunk is one of the marvels of the animal kingdom and could quite aptly be likened to our hand. They use it to tear bark off trees and to pick up big tree trunks, and yet this incredibly strong trunk is still delicate enough to take a peanut gently out of your hand. They use it for drinking water, smelling and even for chastising their young.
Q: Why do elephants "trumpet"
A: The trumpeting sound is used to denote excitement and anger, or simply to communicate over a long distance.
Q: Can elephants survive in the cold?
A: The short answer to this is yes. The elephant, although historically and geographically a hot area inhabitant, is hardier than expected and adapts well to living in very cold climates. However, as with most animals that do not live in colder climates naturally, shelter should be provided.
Q: Do elephant burial grounds exist?
A: No, this is simply not true. The large number of skulls and bones found in one area at a time has been explained. Tribesmen used to collect the bones of elephants and stockpile them. There are also explanations regarding various lakes having been poisonous over the centuries and the carcasses of elephants have been found in the vicinity due to them all dying in one place etc In addition, the wind has been known to blow the bones into a common area after extended periods of time.