Category Archives: CONSERVATION

Meet Nature’s True ‘Winnie the Pooh’

 

If you thought ‘Winnie the Pooh’ was a pro honey snatcher, you should meet nature’s true honey bear.

The Malayan sun bear (Helarctos malayanus).

Continue reading Meet Nature’s True ‘Winnie the Pooh’

The American Bison Gets Promoted

Bison have a new title. . .The country’s first national mammal!

On May 9, 2016, President Obama signed the National Bison Legacy Act, designating the North American bison as the United States’ first national mammal.

Now joining the bald eagle as a national symbol, our newest addition couldn’t be more fitting to represent this amazing country.  Like our national bird, the bison is a true conservation success story.

Continue reading The American Bison Gets Promoted

10 Fascinating Facts about Asian Elephants

Have you heard the saying,

“An elephant never forgets?”

Well, that should be followed with

“and one will never forget an elephant.. “

elephant duo

During my trip, exploring the savannas and jungles of Sri Lanka, I Screenshot 2016-07-24 19.55.30was fortunate enough to meet some remarkable people who work to save these gentle giants and the places they call home. Join me as we discover 10 fascinating facts about  Asian elephant!  Click here for the Curious Conservationist kids’ version.

1. All in the name.

elephantdustbath
A Asian elephant gives herself a dustbath in the setting sun. Image by Ms. Mallory Adventures

The scientific name of the Asian elephant is Elephas maximus. Elephas – from Latin elephantus from Greek elephant-, elephas meaning “elephant, ivory” (perhaps of Hamitic origin) (Gove 1971) Maximus – Latin maximus meaning “greatest” (superlative of magnus “great, large”). There are three subspecies of Asian elephant – the Indian, Sumatran and Sri Lankan.

 

2. A true giant.

Image by Ms. Mallory Adventures
Image by Ms. Mallory Adventures

The elephant is the largest land animal. Although the Asian elephant is slightly smaller than its African cousin, it can still weigh up to 5.5 tons (4,990 kg).

 

3. More than a nose.

An orphan at the Elephant Transit Home in Sri Lanka helps its caretakers by holding its own 'bottle' with its trunk. Image by Ms. Mallory Adventures
An orphan at the Elephant Transit Home in Sri Lanka helps its caretakers by holding its own ‘bottle’ with its trunk. Image by Ms. Mallory Adventures

An elephant uses its trunk for breathing, smelling, touching, grasping, and producing sound. It contains over 100,000 muscles. Just like walking, baby elephants must also learn how to use their trunks.

 

4. Superpower hearing.

Asian elephants have much smaller, rounder ears than their African cousins. Image by Ms. Mallory
Asian elephants have much smaller, rounder ears than their African cousins. Image by Ms. Mallory

Elephants have a complex language consisting of rumbles, squeals, cries, screams, roars, and snorts. Elephants frequently use infrasonic sounds, which are sounds emitted below the human hearing range, in long—distance communication. Research has shown that elephants are capable of recognizing calls and voices of particular individuals from 1 to 1.5 km (0.6-0.9 mi.) away!

 

5. A giant vegetarian.

Image by Ms. Mallory Adventures
Image by Ms. Mallory Adventures

Elephants eat roots, grasses, fruit, and bark, and they eat a lot of these things. An adult elephant can consume up to 300 pounds (136 kilograms) of food in a single day. Cultivated crops such as bananas, rice and sugarcane are also favoured foods – sometimes bringing them into conflict with humans.

 

6. Girls Rule!

Herds are led by the head 'matriarch,' usually the largest, oldest female. Image by Ms. Mallory Adventures
Herds are led by the head ‘matriarch,’ usually the largest, oldest female. Image by Ms. Mallory Adventures

Elephants have a lifespan of up to 80 years and naturally live in family groups containing many generations of females and their calves. In fact, there is scientific evidence now that shows calf survival rate increases drastically with the presence of a grandmother.  Offspring receive valuable environmental and social knowledge from their elders, such as where to find water during a dry season.  Males must leave the family group once they reach puberty to prevent inbreeding.

 

7. It’s all relative.

The closest living relative to the elephant is the hyrax, a small rodent-like animal, and sirenians such as manatees and dugongs.

8. The longest pregnancy.

Orphans at the Elephant Transit Home beside the Udawalawe NP. They can drink up to 3 gallons in a day. Image by Ms. Mallory Adventures
Orphans at the Elephant Transit Home beside the Udawalawe NP. They can drink up to 3 gallons in a day. Image by Ms. Mallory Adventures

An elephant’s gestation period is twenty-two months, longer than any other mammal.  A newborn calf weighs about 200 lbs and stands three feet tall. It is dependent on its mother’s milk for three years.

9. Important jobs.

Elephants are keystone species. Image by Ms. Mallory Adventures
Elephants are keystone species. Image by Ms. Mallory Adventures

Elephants are a keystone species, which means they have a large impact on their environment and the other animals that live in it. Elephants can knock down trees, create new paths, spread seeds, and dig water holes for water during times of drought.

10. They need our help.

One-hundred years ago, more than 20,000 wild Asian elephants inhabited Sri Lanka. Today, the population numbers only 5,000. Image by Ms. Mallory Adventures
One-hundred years ago, more than 20,000 wild Asian elephants inhabited Sri Lanka. Today, the population numbers only 5,000. Image by Ms. Mallory Adventures.

Asian elephants are listed as an endangered species. More than 100,000 Asian elephants may have existed at the start of the 20th century, but numbers have fallen by at least 50% over the last three generations, and they are still in decline today.

Habitat loss. Poaching. Human-Elephant Conflicts. These are the top 3 reasons why Asian elephant populations are getting smaller.

How Can You Make A Difference?

1. Don’t buy ivory- Obvious, I know. But it had to be said, just in case.

2. Learn about elephants- Knowledge is power. The more you know, the more you can teach others.

3. Support elephant friendly tourism- Please support guides and companies that do not harass, torment, or provoke unnatural behavior from elephants.  Many companies will pose as an ‘eco tourism’ attraction, but exploit their animals purely for profit.

4. Join the movement- Get involved with organizations that help wildlife and the wild places they call home.  Volunteer. Donate. Promote. Do your research and find one that corresponds with your interests and beliefs. Big or small, even the tiniest bit of support can mean so much to the one it is helping.

 

For ways kids can help, visit my Curious Conservationist post on Asian Elephants. 

 

I am sure I didn’t even skim the surface of amazing elephant facts.  What is your most interesting elephant fact?  Comment below.

 

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Until next time, this is Ms. Mallory inviting you to . . .

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