Sadly Elephant numbers in Africa are declining every day due to illegal poaching and human-animal conflict. The much anticipated results of the largest ever continent-wide wildlife survey, the Great Elephant Census, were released at the World Conservation Congress in Hawaii. The worrying finding: Africa now has 352,271 savanna elephants left in 93 percent of the species’ range.
The aerial survey covered 18 African countries. In 15 of those, where information on previous populations existed, 144,000 elephants were lost to ivory poaching and habitat destruction in less than a decade.
The current yearly loss—overwhelmingly from poaching—is estimated at 8 percent. That’s about 27,000 elephants slaughtered year after year.
However, with the help of Conservation Lake Tanganyika operating in Nsumbu National Park Zambia, the Elephants of Nsumbu are slowly increasing in numbers again.
In Kala Bay we have one herd that has approximately 80 animals which is a great achievement. We also have a set of elephant twins that were born here and survived, a rare thing as often only one of them will make it to adulthood.
So to celebrate and also bring awareness to the plight of these wonderful animals I thought we would throw in a few quick facts about Elephants that you all should know…
1. There are only two distinct species of elephant left in the world: The African elephant and the Asian elephant.
2. The word “elephant” comes from the Greek word “elephas” which means “ivory”.
3. The elephant’s gestation period is 22 months – longer than any other land animal in the world. A new born human baby weighs an average of 7 pounds while a new born elephant baby can weigh up to 260 pounds! The baby can stand up shortly after being born.
4. The oldest known elephant in the world lived for 86 years (1917 – 2003). The average lifespan of an elephant is from 50 to 70 years. The largest known elephant was shot in Angola in 1956 and weighed about 24 000 pounds! It had a shoulder height of 3.96 metres!
5. The tusks of an elephant are modified incisors that grow throughout an elephant’s lifetime. An adult male’s tusks grow about 7 inches a year. Tusks are used to dig for salt, water and roots, to debark trees, to clear a path and occasionally in fights. Additionally, they are used for marking trees to establish an elephant’s territory.
6. The elephant’s trunk is a fusion of its nose and upper lip. It is the elephant’s most important limb. The trunk is sensitive enough to pick up a blade of grass and strong enough to rip the branches off a tree. The trunk is also used for drinking – the elephant can suck up to 14 litres of water at a time and then blow it straight into its mouth! When bathing, the elephant sucks water to spray on its body. It will then spray dirt and mud on its wet coat, which will dry and act as sunscreen.
7. Elephants have two gaits – a walk and a faster gait that is similar to running. They cannot jump, trot or gallop, however they can swim and use their trunk as a snorkel.
8. The elephant’s very large ears are used to radiate excess heat away from the body.
9. Elephant behaviour is associated with a unique animal intelligence that displays grief, altruism, compassion, self-awareness, play, art and music!
10. There is a structured social order in the elephant’s lifestyle. The females spend their entire lives in tight family groups made up of mothers, grandmothers, aunts, sisters and daughters. The eldest female normally leads the group. Adult males prefer to live a bachelor lifestyle.