Five elephant facts you won’t forget

From Dumbo to Elmer, elephants have always managed to capture the hearts of people across the globe.

African elephant
African elephants are the largest mammals that live on land.

There’s a lot of rumours that go round about these gentle giants though: that they never forget, that they grieve, and that their favourite snack is a peanut.

But do any of these hold up?

Elephants don’t love to eat peanuts

Forget what you’ve seen in pretty much every cartoon containing an elephant - they don’t actually eat peanuts, and we don’t really know where the rumour started. They’re a bit too small for the appetite of such a big animal and most elephants don’t really like them very much.

Elephants mourn their loved ones when they die

Whilst not entirely conclusive, there’s lots of evidence to suggest that elephants display very complex emotions and even grieve. They’ve been recorded in the wild standing by dead bodies of relatives for days, crying near them, and even dragging the carcasses with the herd when it’s time to move on. Even non-relatives have been seen ‘paying respects’ to the dead.

Elephants are led by women

African elephant with calf
Female calves will stay with their mothers their whole lives.

Elephant herds are matriarchal, which means the leader is female. Mothers will spend time with and lead the calves and the male elephants (bulls) will live in a separate herd. Despite the apparent girl-power in the herd however, female elephants are called cows, which quite frankly we think is a bit rude.

There aren’t really elephant graveyards

Despite what you may have seen in the Lion King, there’s not a lot of evidence to suggest that elephants gather to die in mass graveyards in the wild. It’s a legend that’s persisted for years, in part because poachers treated it like a treasure story, as a lot of elephant carcasses would mean a lot ivory they could sell.

Elephants do have very good memories

Elephants have a bit of a reputation for not forgetting anything and this partially is born out of their migration habits. As the seasons change, elephants move around a bit to make sure they’re in the best places to survive. Their routes remain largely the same throughout their lifetimes, as they remember the spots along the way where there’s water and return to them year on year. Smart!

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