Saturday, September 27, 2014

Africa 36: Interesting Facts About Elephants.

Even though the poaching of elephants is a huge problem in Africa, we were lucky enough to see lots of elephants on this trip.

Park police have begun arresting anyone in possession of a high powered rifle in the national parks.  This has caused poachers to change tactics.

Poachers have begun poisoning entire watering holes, killing not only elephants, but other animals who happen to drink there as well.

Elephants are matriarchal.  That is, it's the females that are in charge of the herd.

All elephants have exceptional memories.  Matriarchal leaders remember where the best grazing can be found.  They know all the places to find water.

It is not unusual for elephants to travel hundreds of miles to find water and better grazing conditions.  All led by the females.

Elephants use their trunks to literally tear branches off trees.  Even the thorny Acacia trees.

We saw many instances where elephants broke all the trees off above six feet across huge areas.

We saw this everywhere.  It is almost as though herds will harvest an entire area and then move on, allowing that area to regenerate.

Folklore claims that no elephant burial grounds have ever been found.  People wonder, where do elephants go when they die?

The answer lies in their teeth.  With all the branch breaking and grinding, elephants' teeth tend to wear out. Nature has helped them and hindered them in this regard.

As a side note, notice how the bones grow in a honeycomb fashion in this elephant skull.  This saves skeletal weight and also helps keep the animals cool

Nature helps elephants by giving them six sets of teeth.  One set every 10 or so years.  The teeth grow in the back and work their way to the front as they wear. 

At about age 60 elephants have all the teeth they're going to get and the ones they have are often worn out.  As a result, they tend to stay in or near water, where the plant life is much more tender, and easier on the teeth, than tree branches.

At some point they either starve to death or become prey for other animals.  When they die, their skeletons end up disintegrating in the water.  Hence, as according to legend, no burial grounds on land have ever been found.

Next time, we get another look at the spirit of Africa.

 Continue on to Post 37: The Spirit of Africa is Alive and Well, cont, by clicking here.


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