After spending more time than I’d like to admit reading about the travesty and ridiculousness that is the current U.S. Government Shutdown, I have to say, I was pretty down. Instead of dwelling on my anger this has generated, I thought I’d rant about something wonderful:
I came to this decision after finding an amazing photograph of an elephant with her trunk wrapped around the tusks of a deceased friend- an image which was apparently entered into a National Geographic contest (right).
Elephants, by all accounts, are incredibly emotional creatures. They mourn for their fallen comrades. They stick together and are known to be charismatic and highly communicative within their herds. Elephant herds are led by the Matriarch, or the oldest female elephant of the herd. Males, on the other hand, are largely solitary and usually roam between herds. Elephants have an average lifespan of 60-80 years.
The following are a general list of interesting elephant facts I’ve collected.
Elephants are extremely intelligent.
With a highly developed hippocampus, it’s easy to see why elephants are known for their emotional intelligence: the hippocampus is the region of the brain which controls emotion as well as spatial awareness. Their brains have more complex folds than any other mammal, with the exception of whales. The discovery of the extremely developed hippocampus found in elephants brains has backed up countless reports of altruism found in elephants. This kind of selfless compassion for not only other elephants but other species as well is rare even in humans. It’s also said that elephants can die of a broken heart. For example, an orphaned elephant calf who had been raised by a human keeper was separated from the keeper for a brief time. When the keeper returned, they found the elephant had died of a broken heart.
Elephant are susceptible to stress and rage.
The elephant population has been diminished an amazing amount due to the ivory trade, now illegal since the late 1980s. Diminished from nearly 1.3 million to just 600,000 in the span of 10 years alone, the numbers are remarkable. However, this has had a lasting effect on elephants as a species. As elephants are known to protect each other and their herd, humans slaughtering elephants has led researchers to see elephants seem to have a natural fear toward humans at this point. There have also been incidents of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder seen in young orphaned elephants, waking screaming after witnessing their entire herd slaughtered by people. This change in elephants has led to more attacks on villages and defensive behavior when it wouldn’t otherwise have been warranted. In fact it’s also said that elephants are evolving smaller tusks to protect themselves from poachers.
Elephants mourn their dead.
Elephants are known to be perform many group rituals. One of these rituals revolves around mourning the dead. (You’ve probably heard the term ‘elephant graveyard’ before.) When a member of the herd dies, it’s said that the other members of the herd will stand by the deceased elephant for long periods of time, sometimes days. Also, they’re known to cover the deceased elephant with dirt and leaves. Not only do they mourn, but they also remember: elephants are known to revisit these fallen elephant burial grounds for years and years afterward. Aside from humans, elephants are the only other known mammal to perform these death rituals, giving researchers indication that elephants understand the concept of death.