Sunday, April 1, 2012

A-African Elephants

If anyone were to ask someone what my favorite animal is, most people would respond (without hesitation), "cats", and they would be WRONG!  My favorite animal of all time has been and will always be the African elephant.
There is something about them that just draws me in and makes me love them.  If there were pet-sized African elephants, I would totally have one!  They are just so darned cute.  I mean honestly, how could you not love the cute mug and the huge ears on the calf above?!

What's the difference between African and Asian elephants you ask?  African elephants are the largest land-dwelling animal.  Some of the most obvious of their many differences are that African elephants have large ears (just another reason they are adorable!) for heat dispersal, their trunks in in two opposing lips whereas the Asian elephant has only one lip, and their obvious geographic location.

I learned some new things about African elephants recently: apparently there are two species that are lumped into the term of African elephant.  The two species are the African bush elephant and the African forest elephant and they have enough genetic and morphologic differences that they are different species, having diverged 2.5-5.6 million years ago, about as long ago as the Asian elephant diverged from the wooly mammoth!

African elephants form tight family units of females and their calves, led by an older elephant.  Did you know that elephant gestation periods last for 2 years?!  (No wonder the males are not allowed to live with the family units, they would go crazy, lol).

Elephants have very complex brains and are among the most intelligent species on the planet.  They exhibit behaviors including: grief, the ability to learn, all-mothering, mimicry, art, play, sense of humor, concern for others, compassion, cooperation, using tools, memory, self-awareness and perhaps language (they can use infrasound to communicate over long distances).

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I have always loved elephants, I am not exactly sure why but they speak to me.  They have such an utter majesty to them, and they are such friendly, serene, and beautiful animals.  If you get the chance to pet or ride one, you should do it (they are so astonishing up close, and riding them is quite the experience)!

What about you?  What is your favorite animal and why?  What are some interesting, not well-known facts about your animal?


  1. You'll have to come down and go to the National Zoo with me. They have African Elephants there. They are adorable. I have several pictures of them from last fall...but it was hard to get a very good one.

    I'm not sure what my favorite animal would be. Penguins, maybe. They're super cool :)

  2. I totally did a report on the elephant genome in my undergrad. It was the last presentation I gave in college before I graduated for the first time. The genetic differences between the African and Asian elephants are fascinating!

    P.S. My favorite animal would probably be...hmmm...something fluffy, no idea what exactly though.

  3. African Elephants are fascinating! I'm not sure what my favorite animal is. I like dolphins...and red pandas...and penguins...and orangutans...and...the list could continue ;)

  4. Love the elephants painting. They're so artistic.