The African bush elephants are the largest living land mammals. They always seem to be constantly in motion – flapping their ears to create a cooling breeze, swishing their tails at flies, breaking off grass or tree branches and nuzzling each other.
Although elephants are typically greyish in colour, they often seem brown or reddish from wallowing in mud holes of the iron-rich volcanic African soil. The elephants love squelching in the mud which acts as a sunscreen, protecting their skin from the harsh ultraviolet radiation of the sun. After bathing, they even use their trunks to blow soil on their bodies to help dry and bake on their new protective coats.
Trunks are pretty useful things really. African elephants have two “finger-like” projections at the tips of the trunk which are sensitive enough to pick up a single blade of grass, yet strong enough to rip the branches off a tree. They even greet each other by entwining their trunks, much like a handshake.
They’ve also got great hearing and are great at making deep, low frequency sounds that enable them to communicate with other elephants up to 10 km away.
Elephants listen by putting trunks on the ground and carefully positioning their feet. Their trunks are sensitive to vibrations, they have special receptors in their feet which pick up the sound as it travels through the ground, and hearing receptors in their ears.
Now, isn’t that amazing?!