The Strange Ways of Wild Elephants
These Mysterious Giants Are More Like Humans than You Might Think
by Marisela Avila, age 15
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
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
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
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.
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]