It’s not surprising that we fall for animals that wag their tails when we come home, purr, or cuddle up with us. So how do we have so much love for elephants, the world’s largest land mammal? While we can’t get to know them quite like cats and dogs, from tusk to tail, it’s easy to see why elephants are special creatures.
Through our Project Peril program, we help support endangered species like Asian Elephants, whose populations have declined by at least 50% over the last three decades.
You can help us protect Asian elephants.Your gift will support our work to to secure habitat for elephants, reduce human-elephant conflicts, and halt the ivory trade.
Forget fair food, actual elephant ears are a wonder.
With these excellent listening tools, elephants can pick up sounds far below and above what humans can hear.
Shaped like maps of their origin, the ears of African savanna and African forest elephants resemble the continent of Africa, while Asian elephant ears look like the subcontinent of India.
Elephants flap their ears like fans to stay cool under the intense sun. And since their ears have thin blood vessels close to the skin, heat can escape, helping them regulate their body temperature.
Impressive and intimidating, elephant tusks are essential for living.
Just like us, elephants use their teeth—we call them tusks—to make eating easier. Tusks are key for food prep, like digging up roots and pulling bark off trees.
Tusks start growing when an elephant is 2 years old and never stop, which means tusk size is an indicator of an elephant’s age.
While humans are right- or left-handed, elephants favor one tusk or the other. Their dominant tusk is usually more worn down from use.
Sadly, poachers kill 30,000 elephants a year to steal and sell their ivory tusks.
An elephant’s trunk is highly maneuverable and excessively extraordinary.
Trunks contain 150,000 muscle bundles, great for knocking over trees and lifting hundreds of thousands of pounds.
Part fancy fork, part crazy straw, elephant trunks can reach branches 20 feet high, suck up to 10 gallons of water a minute, and hold up to 2 gallons.
Trunks have the dexterity to pick up a blade of grass, the sensitivity to detect the far-off rumbling of thunder or herds, and the ability to soothe themselves by petting their own heads or faces.
Whatever elephants do, they do it very well.
An animal that needs to consume 330-375 pounds of fruit, plants, and grass each day, needs to spend a lot of time eating, specifically 12-18 hours.
Elephant bodies are designed for water. Buoyant enough to stay at the surface and use their legs to paddle, elephants are great swimmers. Plus, using their trunks as snorkels lets them breathe even when crossing deep rivers.
In addition to their keen sense of hearing and vibe-detecting skin, elephants have sensitive nerve endings in their feet and trunks that help them pick up infrasonic messages—like the stomping of an elephant miles away—warning of danger.
Asian elephants are sometimes described as ecosystem engineers, since their presence in their environments is tied to rich biodiversity. By making pathways through dense forests, they clear space for other animals to pass through. Even their footprints—when filled with rain water—can create a home for small organisms.
Knowledge is passed down by elephant elders. Matriarchs carry—and share—crucial information about availability of food and water, and how to handle dangerous situations.