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The Elephant Enigma

Updated: Dec 7, 2022

In celebration of World Elephant Day, I thought I would share some lesser-known facts about these majestic African giants. It is the world's largest mammal, yet it is so misunderstood.

Contrary to popular belief and although elephants have been observed to mourn their dead, elephant graveyards are not a real thing! While we humans do love a good story, I'm afraid this one is just not true. Elephants do not have a designated spot for when they are ready to pass. You will find though that elephants often die in the same area due to disease, pollution, drought, or poisoning. This may explain the mass burial sites. However, they will pay respect to the bones of their dead by gently touching the skulls and tusks with their trunk and feet. They are also known to sometimes pick up the tusks of their dead and move them to another location.

Just as people are left and right-handed, elephants too are either left or right tusked and trunked. They will favour using one side over the other. If an elephant is right ‘handed’ the muscles of their trunk will be more defined on their more dominant, right side as well as their tusk more worn as they would use it more frequently than the left. Next time you are in the company of an elephant, try and see if you can make out if it is left or right 'handed'!

Elephants are highly sensitive and caring animals. They have been observed to express grief, compassion, altruism, and play. They perform cheerful greeting ceremonies when a friend that has been away for some time returns to the herd, you can almost see their smiles beaming. They sometimes ‘hug’ each other by wrapping their trunks together.

Elephants use their feet to listen to subsonic rumblings made by other elephants through vibrations in the ground. They listen by putting their trunks on the ground and carefully positioning their feet. They use a wide range of sounds to talk to each other - including those which we humans are not able to hear. Be careful what you say about the elephants next time, they could very easily be sending subsonic messages to each other through the earth beneath you. Who knows what they will say about you!

Being in the presence of these colossal creatures is like no other. You can just about feel their celestial aura radiating around you.

Happy World Elephant Day!

Text written by Amy-Jean Beattie


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