1. Elephants can distinguish
different human ethnic groups by
listening to their voices.
Scientists have found that elephants
are capable of discriminating
between ethnic groups from their
voices and languages. Herds would
respond to recordings of voices from
groups that on occasion attack them
by bunching together defensively.
However, recordings of groups who
do not attack elephants did not create
a strong response.
The elephants could also distinguish
the age and sex of individuals
from within the same group. They
responded less defensively to the
voices of women and young boys,
who pose less of a threat, than those
of the men in the group.
2. It is very rare for female
elephants to give birth to twins.
A female elephant, known as a cow,
typically produces a single calf. It is
very rare for elephants to give birth
to twins, happening in only around
0.5% of pregnancies. They have the
longest gestation period of any land
mammal – as long as 22 months!
3. An elephant’s trunk contains more
muscles than there are in the entire
human body.
An elephant’s trunk contains over
40,000 muscles, made up of around
150,000 muscles units. This is more
than there are in the entire human body,
which contains only 639 muscles.
4. Elephants’ tusks are for life and
cannot regrow.
Unlike deer antlers, which are shed
every year after the mating season,
elephants’ tusks are actually a pair of
elongated teeth which continue growing
throughout their life. If they lose one,
like with our adult teeth, they have lost
it for life. One of the heaviest tusks ever
recorded weighed more than 100kg.
5. Elephant families are led by
dominant females.
Elephant societies are led by the oldest
female of the group, the matriarch.
Adult males are usually solitary. The
matriarch acts as a store of knowledge
which is passed down from generation
to generation. The herd relies on her to
make key decisions on where to find
food and water as well as which herds
are friends and which are foe.
6. Elephants may be left- or right-
Similar to humans, elephants may be
“left- or right-handed”, meaning there
is a preference to use one tusk over the
other. As a result, one tusk may become
more worn than the other.
7. Elephants can hear through their
Elephants’ feet have special sensory
cells, called pacinian corpuscles, which
enable them to detect vibrations of
other elephants rumble calls through
the ground.
8. Elephants DO NOT drink by
sucking water through their trunk like
a straw.
The elephant’s trunk is an extension of
the upper lip and nose. Elephants use
their trunks to collect water, sucking
it part way up the trunk, which they
then pour into their mouths. Initially,
elephants have very little control of
their trunks so they drink water using
their mouth; sucking water with the
trunk starts at around four months of
9. Elephants help the plants that
they eat.
African elephants have been found
to disperse the seeds around 335
different species of plants in their
dung. Some species of plants can only
germinate if they have first passed
through the digestive system of an
10. Female elephants live long after
they are no longer able to breed.
Female elephants have a long postreproductive
phase, similar to human
menopause. They can live for decades
after the birth of their last calf,
something that intrigued scientists
for many years. It is now known that
older females act as knowledge stores
and help the herd make important
decisions. Scientists have discovered
that herds rely on the wisdom of older
matriarchs to make their decisions
have better success in raising calves.