In which we provide a few facts to put things in perspective.
Last century there were up to five million elephants roaming the African continent; today, African elephants number in the hundreds of thousands. Decimated by the lust for ivory and hunting trophies, their biggest threat by far is humans. And it makes me wonder with sad astonishment, how could anyone derive pleasure from killing such a noble animal? What kind of barbarian thinks that is fun? Consider the following.
- Elephants are much smarter than previously thought and can remember things over the course of many years.
- After a death, elephant family members show signs of grief.
- Elephants have been known to revisit the bones of the dead for years, touching them with their trunks.
- They show signs of joy and anger.
- They show distinct signs of empathy. When an elephant is expressing signs of anxiety for one reason or another, others will rush to it, chirp softly and stroke the stressed one with their trunks.
- Elephants create deep family bonds; aunts, sisters, and female cousins all pitch in to help raise babies.
- Mothers and other females use their trunks to show affection, comfort and protection for the young. They caress by wrapping a trunk over a youth’s back leg, or wrapping their trunks around a calf’s midriff, over its shoulder, or around its neck, often touching the baby’s mouth, kind of like a human kiss.
- Since elephants get sunburned, they cover themselves with dust. When babies are sleeping, adult females cover them in sand and stand over them to shade them while napping.
- Like human toddlers, great apes, magpies and dolphins, “elephants have passed the mirror test – they recognize themselves in a mirror,” reports Smithsonian.
- Elephants communicate from afar through sub-sonic messages that travel over the ground, the rumble is picked up by other elephants through their sensitive skin feet and trunks.
- The trunk is so sensitive, it is keener than a bloodhound's nose and can smell water from several miles away.
- They are adept tool users and cooperative problem solvers. They fashion “twigs into switches to shoo flies and plugged drinking holes with chewed up balls of bark,” explains Scientific American. The magazine also writes:
Elephant clan members talk to one another with a combination of gentle chirps, thunderous trumpets and low-frequency rumbles undetectable to humans, as well as nudges, kicks and visual signals such as a tilt of the head or flap of the ear. They deliberate among themselves, make group decisions and applaud their achievements.“Being part of an elephant family is all about unity and working together for the greater good,” says Joyce Poole, one of the world’s foremost elephant experts and co-founder of the charity ElephantVoices, which promotes the study and ethical care of elephants. “When they are getting ready to do a group charge, for example, they all look to one another: ‘Are we all together? Are we ready to do this?’ When they succeed, they have an enormous celebration, trumpeting, rumbling, lifting their heads high, clanking tusks together, intertwining their trunks.”Scientific American, National Geographic, World Wildlife Fund, Defenders of Wildlife.