September 22 was established as National Elephant Appreciation Day in 1996 in honor of the largest land animal in the world. The holiday was founded by pachyderm-enthusiast Wayne Hepburn after his daughter gave him a paperweight of elephants on parade and he became fascinated by them. To some, it’s just another animal, but the more you know about them, the more you come to appreciate these fascinating creatures.
Elephant Appreciation Day Trivia
1. It’s true that an elephant never forgets, and that’s because of the size of their hippocampus, the part of the brain where memories are stored, is so large.
2. Speaking of brains, did you know that elephants have the largest brains of any land animal in pure mass? At birth, an elephant’s brain size has only reached 35 percent of its potential size, and that means they have a huge capacity for learning as they grow and develop.
3. With such big brains, elephants are highly intelligent and highly social. They have their own language, and this makes it easy for them to form strong bonds with each other, and with other species.
4. Elephants are one of the few animals with self awareness. Like humans, apes, and dolphins, elephants can recognize themselves in a mirror.
5. World Elephant Day is celebrated on August 12, and was created to bring awareness to the plight of African and Asian elephants throughout the world.
6. Their trunks have 40,000 muscles and tendons, and it takes about a year for them to learn how to use it. Adam Stone, director of elephant husbandry at the Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee, says “with a baby elephant, you will see that its trunk looks like a worm on the end of a hook, even when they’re nursing. They’ll trip over it; it’s really complex.”
7. They weigh thousands of pounds and still manage to be quick and nimble. They can move up to 35 mph, stop on a dime, and travel over mountain ranges with no problems.
8. They follow the oldest female in their group, which is not typical of social hierarchy in the animal kingdom. They do this because she has the most memory, and knows where the safe haven is, where the food is, and where to go in a storm.
9. In the wild, elephants can live to be in their 40s. In captivity, they can live even longer.
10. Elephants have the longest eyelashes in the world. They’re about 5 inches in length.
This post originally published on September 2, 2014.