Elephants: 14 Fascinating Behaviors & Rituals You Probably Didn’t Know
When thinking of one of the largest, animals in the planet. Elephants are near the top of the list after whales. And how much do you really know about their behavior and family ties? Here are some things I bet you didn’t know about elephants.
14 Elephant Myths Busted
You may have a fear that may be perceived as irrational to others. I am sure you have seen movies and tv shows were someone starts screaming and jumping on top of the table after seeing a small, nimble and furry creature. It’s no different with elephants. Its believed that elephants are deadly afraid of mice. There are many cartoons and shows that depict an elephant running full force away from the little demons. But it’s not the mice elephants are afraid of, it’s their small size and the fast movements that scare them into action. Being fair to elephants though, many other animals as well as humans could fall into the same fear based category.
13 White Elephants in Buddhism
Albinos are unique across the entire animal kingdom. And the extremely rare white elephant has a very special place in the Buddhist religion. If you’ve ever been in a Buddhist country or even shopping at your local mall and wondered why there were so many white elephant figures this is why. In Buddhism, white elephants are also regarded as a symbol of strength, wisdom and prudence. The elephant is a sacred animal in Buddhism because it was said to have offered flowers to Buddha. And because of there special place in the religion it’s said that, those white elephant figurines should be placed high on a mantel or shelf, or on an altar. And it’s not just in Buddhism that holds white elephants in a special regard. In Siam, present day Thailand, white elephants were so revered that they weren’t even made to work for their upkeep. They were just pampered and showed off by their owners for their entire lives. Yep you figured, they are so expencive to upkeep that the term white elephant giving comes from.
12 Elephants Can Read Emotion
Elephants may be emotionally closer to humans than you may think. touch is said to bring comfort, and just as you will go and hug a friend or family member in need of support, elephants console one another when they are upset to, but they don’t hug. For elephants it’s not in the arms, or in their case the legs, but the trunk that does the consoling. Elephants use their trunks to stroke other upset elephants or give them repeated gentle touches. This is special because previously it was thought that only humans, great apes and some birds were able to recognize pain in another and then console them. On a cuter note, we have seen babies humans sucking their thumbs if frighten, sad or just for fun right?, well, Baby elephants suck their trunks for comfort when feeling upset.
11 Elephants Mourning Ritual
In most cultures around the world, people go to great lengths to make time to honor their past loved ones. There are cultures who celebrate the lives of their deceased ones with vigils, candle and fire rituals or even more celebratory good bye parties designed to rejoice in the life of the honored one. Elephants may just be as elaborate in their goodbye rituals as humans are. When a member of an elephant family passes away, they will not only shed tears but also circle the dead for hours or even days before or after burying them.
10 Elephants Gone Wild!
There have been several incidents between humans and elephants. Not only are elephants facing a reduction of their food and free roaming lands, but predators and poachers are ever more attentive to any weakness in the herd. As the saying goes, “fences make good neighbors,” park rangers have come up with a clever way to protect the elephants from migrating to unwanted and dangerous parts. It’s not a wall between the US and Mexico. Instead of tall concrete or electric fences, the solution is bee hives. Yes, Beehive fences have been used to deter elephants from crossing towards danger. Elephants are naturally, differently than with mice, afraid of bees so it makes sense to use it to their advantage. Elephants fear bee hives so much that they have a sound only used when finding a place infested with bees, it’s called a “bee Rumble.”
9 Elephants, Recycling, and Tooth Picks
Most of us after a holiday such as Christmas, the gifts are opened, the ornaments taken down and packed away, the trees are taken to the curb to be disposed of and that’s the last time you may see of it. Elephants on the other hand are more ecofriendly. In Cologne, Germany Christmas does not only come to town, but it also cheers more than just humans. It has become a tradition to donate their used Christmas trees to the local zoo. Not only do those old Christmas trees serve as shelter for woodland creatures and others alike but also elephants can eat up to 3 of these delicious trees a day, and clean their teeth in the process.
8 Maintaining Their Memorials
Countries like Mexico celebrate the day of the dead, the ritual involves cleaning and decorating the graves of their loved ones, telling stories of the deceased one and making a feast to honor them. Similarly, after an elephant burial, elephants are known to revisit the graves, even old ones. Going further, they will travel long distances and as they revisit graves, they will recognize the skulls and tusk, they will examine them with their feet and trunks even generations later.
7 Elephant Driving and State Laws in the US
There are many bizarre U.S. state laws that perhaps should be deleted from the books. But you would never think any of them would involve elephants. Now elephants are known for fermenting fruits on their trunks and getting a little tipsy, but in Missouri its illegal to give alcohol to them. Meanwhile In Florida, if you leave your elephant tethered to the parking meter, make sure to pay it, the charge is the same as if you have parked your car. I have another one! I guess its okay to make the donkeys, horses, bulls and your older kids do this, but in North Carolina it’s illegal to make an elephant plough cotton fields.
6 Staying Forever Young
While on vacation, many of us will grab a tanning lotion or even more probable sun block to protect from the harming solar rays. Umbrellas and other solar blockers are found everywhere under the sun in other to keep our skin healthy. But what would you do if you are an elephant and a tree shade is not an option? Well, elephants can get sun burned and the learned behaviors from the matriarchal rulers of the herd have taught young elephants to use sand and mud as sun blockers. You may also see pigs do this for sun protection as well as to remove toxins from their system.
5 Cut For The Swimming Team!
Most of us have gone swimming we cannot go deep into the water unless without breathing. We all wish we could hold our breath… unless you are a diver who can go for about 8 minutes while hunting for fish elephants are excellent swimmers. They swim submerged underwater using their trunks as snorkels. African elephants have been recorded swimming about 48km that means way over 400 football fields. They are so good that they can swim 6 hours straight nonstop then resting without sinking at all.
4 Priced Accordingly
Several years ago, during the filming of the original Price Is Right, a contestant was going to be given 4000 dollars as a price. To play a joke on the contestant, the producers told the winner he had won a real life elephant. The winner was so excited that when given the monetary price, the contestant demanded the gift of an elephant as promised. Yeah, you guessed. An elephant was delivered to the winner’s home in Texas.
3 Playing Dirty
There are many cultures around the world that use animals as part of their war teams. Most commonly used are sniffing bomb dogs, horses, camels and you guessed right, elephants. Using such gigantic and strong animals should make any team win but wait, the Rajputs in India would use the elephant’s natural instinct to protect the young against any danger. Here is what they did. They had made-up trunks put on the horses so the elephants would not attack what they thought were baby elephants!
2 Rising Heroes During Dark Times
History is filled with heroes and damsels in distress. In this case the hero is a Russian commander, the damsel, an elephant! During WWII a bomb was dropped by the allies in berlin killing all the animals in the zoo except an elephant that managed to escape and was free to roam the city. One day, when many hungry Germans were chasing the runaway elephant down the streets, the commander asked his troops to protect the gentle giant and shoot anyone who tried to hunt it for food.
1 Practical Conservationism
Working with wildlife and conservation is a dangerous task. Like in a movie, most of us want to see the animals in action; many may not be interested on seeing humans interfering in the daily life on any creature, and the job can get dicey if it involves predators. So, in order to keep everyone safe, the BBC crew hired elephants to be recording crew and do the job of recording the up close encounters. Here is what they did, they trained the elephants to use and operate the film equipment!