Saturday, 15 November 2014

ELEPHANTS at Majete Game Park

Two weeks ago I showed you Elephants we had to back away from in the Majete Game Park and gave you some interesting facts about Elephants, CLICK HERE for that post.  However today I am showing you other Elephants we came upon that day.  I came across more information that I found interesting and I hope you do also.

How do elephants communicate?

As elephants live in herds they need several possibilities of communicating with each other. The trunk, the ears, the tail, body language and naturally also the voice are some of these means of communication.

What does the position of the trunk mean?

The trunk's position can either be defensive or threatening.

Elephants can also touch and smell with the trunk, however they notice where the other elephant has just been, what it ate and how it feels.

How do elephants smell things?

An elephant bull will establish whether an elephant cow is in heat with his sense of smell, for example. As elephants have an active Jacob's organ (organum vomeronasale), just as reptiles do, they are capable of sensing and analysing small concentrations of odorous substances in the air.

How important is an elephant's voice and its hearing?

Using both their voice and their hearing, elephants can communicate with each other over great distances.

Fellow elephants who know each other greet each other with quiet rumbling or purring which reminds one of a running diesel engine. Calves bellow loudly for their mothers when they feel lost. Anxious, attacking and attacked elephants trumpet.

What does the tail have to do with communication?

At the back, the tail often serves as a sensory touch instrument. Elephants probe those surroundings which are outside their direct vision with it. That is how they ensure that they have all the necessary information concerning their distance from other members of the group and the immediate environment. 
Of course its tail is also use as a great fly swatter!

Why do elephants flap their ears?

Flapping the ears can express excitement and joy. In turn, the beating of the ears on the skin can be heard. This sound causes other elephants to prick up their ears and to get in contact with the first elephant.

In hot weather, elephants use their ears primarily to cool down, however.

What is infrasound?

It is also known that elephants converse over great distances using infrasound. Human beings can't hear these low-frequency sounds.
Human ears can hear sounds in the range from 20 to 20'000 hertz. Elephants, however, can also emit sounds in the range of 14 - 24 hertz, at a volume of between 85 and 90 decibels. This is significantly louder than the noise level which human conversation generates, namely around 65 decibels.

With such energy-laden sound waves, elephants can communicate with each other up to a distance of severel kilometres.

Is infrasound important?

As the Swiss newspaper NZZ am Sonntag reported (2 March 2003), researchers at the University of Sussex in Brighton and the Amboseli Elephant Research Project have now found out, however, that this does not appear to be so important for Elephants.

Their contact calls to relatives or friendly herds over great distances contain the most important information in a range that we can hear too. Elephants can thus recognise up to 100 individuals by their voices.

The maximum range of the relevant information in such a social call is a mere 2.5 km, however. Up until now it was assumed that elephants exchanged information over distances of up to 10 kilometres.

The biologists observed 1700 elephants in Amboseli National Park, Kenya, for years and recorded the animals' voices. In playback experiments, the elephants reacted to recordings of well-know fellow elephants by sniffing the air with their trunks, giving an answer and moving towards the loud speaker.

The researchers assume that the infrasound frequencies are simply created in elephants' larynxes on account of the animals' size and that they are not used for communication. The trunk, which can amplify audible sounds, is said to be more important for 'long distance calls'.

What do elephant voices sound like?

As elephants are basically very quiet animals, it was not easy to record their voices. Elephants often respond to unusual events with bellowing and squeaking, however. In this case the unusual event was an elephant handler dancing a 'rock and roll' dance with the wheel barrow.

At the first sign of danger, an elephant raises its trunk to smell the air and detect the smell of what is threatening. An elephant uses a whole range of smelling tasks as it is one of the elephants primary sensory organs, along with the ears. An elephants trunk is so important and vital to its life that it would be almost impossible for the elephant to survive should it ever get damaged.

Another interesting observation is when an elephant is charging. If its trunk is stretched out in front, then the elephant is just bluffing. However, it the trunk is curled or tucked downwards then it means business and is serious about its intentions. Like all vertebrates, elephants possess the Jacobson's organ in its mouth (a smelling organ).

The total length of the tusks is not apparent on the outside of the elephant, about a third of the length of the tusk lies hidden inside the elephants skull. This is the unfortunate reason ivory hunters destroy the elephant for their tusks instead of just cutting them off. Ivory is really only dentine and is no different from ordinary teeth. It is the diamond shaped pattern of the elephants tusk which can be distinguished when viewed from a cross-section which gives elephant ivory its distinctive lustre.

Elephants are either 'left-tusked' or 'right-tusked', just like a human being might be 'left-handed' or 'right-handed'. The favoured tusk is usually shorter than the other due to constant use. Tusks on an individual elephant can differ in shape, length, thickness and growth direction. Male elephants tend to have heavier, longer and more stouter tusks than females do.

Tusks in a baby elephant (Calf) are present at birth and are really only like milk teeth. They measure only about 5 centimetres long. These 'milk tusks' will fall out around their first birthday. Their permanent tusks will then start to protrude beyond their lips at around 2 - 3 years old and will continue to grow throughout their lives.

Tusks grow at about 15 - 18 centimetres per year, however, they are continually worn down with constant use. Should they be allowed to continually grow without use, they would grow into a spiral shape (similar to those of the extinct woolly mammoth) as they typically grow following a curved growth pattern.   

I have a short video and to see it CLICK HERE if it is not visible below.

I hope you enjoyed this post.

Unfortunately I cannot link to Saturday Critters today as Eileen is having computer problems. 

Thank you for visiting and also for leaving your kind comments.


  1. Such gorgeous creatures. Thank you - I loved learning more about them as well as just looking at their stunning beauty.

  2. Knowing so much, I am an elephant now.

  3. Thanks for such an educational posting. Are the tusks cut to deter poaching? I think I read that somewhere.

  4. I have heard about the elephants infrasound before (I think it was on the BBC's shows "Life" or "Planet Earth") To me they are such beauties and amazing creatures.

    Mersad Donko Photography

  5. Wow! Amazing facts about elephants... got great knowledge on them. I will check the other post later to learn more.

    Fantastic photos on the elephants from the wild Africa! I liked the close-up detail on their trunk and tusk.

  6. Interesting facts, I didn't know about, and the best, most lovely shots as always. They are so beautiful, no matter what pose or position they are in. How is something so large, be so graceful too?!

  7. Fantastic elephant photos, especially the close-ups.

  8. An interesting read Margaret. We can land a probe onto a comet millions of miles away but there's still a great deal we've yet to learn and understand about the natural world that's right on our doorstep!...[;o)

  9. I really enjoyed both your photos and all the wonderful information. Elephants have always amazed me, they are so big and yet such gentle creatures.

  10. A fascinating read Margaret. Brilliant pictures to accompany your explanations too. I do love to see elephants but have to wait a long time between India and Africa trips unless I go to the zoo which isn't nearly as rewarding as seeing the animal in the wild state.

  11. I came for you reflection contest participation, I stayed for those awesome elephant pictures... My you took them so vividly... It is almost as if I hear them.

  12. Your photos and information about the elephant are fantastic Margaret, and please come by for coffee. You will always be very welcome :)

  13. These giants of the animal kingdom are at the same time rugged and beautiful.

  14. I had no idea about the tusks being right or left! They are so smart! They even have funerals when one of their family dies...Wonderful pictures, it looks like you were out running around with them!

  15. I enjoyed your images and video immensely.

  16. Hi Margaret,
    These guys are so beautiful. You are so lucky to see them in the wild.
    Thanks for sharing your joy with all of us.
    Peace :)

  17. Really great shots and I enjoyed the info - many things here I didn't know.
    Growing up my Grandpa was always buying things for me and my brother. One time he bought us ceramic figurines. I had some elves and my brother elephants. I loved my elves but the elephants just always appealed to me. They always look sad though. :)

  18. I love your photos of these noble animals and your communication facts are so interesting. I had so much fun watching the two baby elephants that were in the zoo this past spring and all of the "communicating that they were doing with their moms.

  19. Beautiful pictures and interesting information.
    Greetings, Kees

  20. Elephants are amazing creatures. I had no idea their trunks were so important for communications!

  21. Wonderfully informative post Margaret! Hope you are having a great weekend.

  22. great info and shots of teh elephants. :)

  23. Extremely interesting and informative post! Elephants are such fascinating and intelligent creatures.