The Strange Ways of Wild Elephants

These Mysterious Giants Are More Like Humans than You Might Think

by Marisela Avila, age 15

           Many people are afraid of elephants because of their size, or the fact that they are from the wild. Little do people know, elephants are a lot like humans.
           Elephants are very intelligent. They are able to sense differences in the various human groups they come in contact with, and can even recognize people from their past. For example, in an experiment elephants were presented with clothing worn by harmless local farmers and Maasai hunters. They were able to distinguish between the two groups. When they saw or smelled a Maasai hunter’s clothing, they ran and hid. But when they encountered the farmer’s clothing, they were calm.
           One of an elephant’s survival skills is its strong memory. This allows them to know which environment has its food needs. They can eat hundreds of pounds of leaves and vegetation, and can drink up to 50 gallons of water per day. With such a huge appetite, it’s important for elephants to be able to remember where distant food and water sources are located.
           Just like humans, elephants have emotions. When people lose a family member or friend, they grieve or possibly become depressed because of the loss they have encountered. Elephants can be seen wandering into the area of a death of another elephant as a symbol of grief. They have also been seen ripping up bushes in anger over the death of a fellow elephant.
           Elephants have one of the longest life spans among all mammals. They can live up to 60 years or more. This is due to their matriarchal leadership. Unlike the male elephant that leaves the family once they are grown, the oldest female leads the group as the matriarch. The oldest female has a powerful role within a herd of elephants not only because they have knowledge and wisdom, but also because the younger elephants trust them.
           During calm times, all adult females help with decisions, but during threatening situations, everyone looks to the matriarch for strength and wise leadership. Elephant groups led by the oldest matriarchs demonstrate more dominance, survive harsh weather, and have more offspring.
           Elephants are often portrayed as dangerous and scary when shown in movies or cartoons. But in reality, they have many characteristics in common with people.

[Sources: National Geographic Kids Elephants; Encyclopedia of Mammals]

Elephants are very interesting animals. You did a great job with this article! – Alex LeeMadison, WI (2013-08-28 17:39)
I didn't know that elephants had a matriarch. I find that very interesting. Great job on the article! – Leila FletcherMadison (2013-09-20 09:48)
That's a slick answer to a chienllgang question – CactusThat's a slick answer to a chienllgang question (2016-04-27 16:15)