Elephants are literally awesome. They’re the world’s largest land animals now living. The African species stands between 8 and 13 feet tall and weighs 5,000 to 14,000 pounds. The Asian elephant stands about 6.6 to 9.8 feet tall and weighs 4,960 to 12,125 pounds. The largest elephant ever recorded was shot in Angola in 1956. This male weighed about 24,000 lb, with a shoulder height of 13 feet.
Elephants may be a lot bigger than humans, but they are actually a lot like us. Here are 5 ways elephants are just like humans:
1. Elephants Mourn Their Dead By Grieving
Just as humans have wakes and funerals, so elephants have their own rituals surrounding death. Anthropologist and author Barbara J. King explained on NPR how a group of elephants expressed grief over the passing of Eleanor, the matriarch of a family in Kenya:
“When Eleanor died, a female called Maui, from [another] elephant family, hovered over her body, pulling on and rocking over it. During the next week, elephants from five different families came to the body. Some individuals seemed motivated only by curiosity. But the behavior of others… clearly involved grief.”
2. Baby Elephants Love to Play
So maybe this one isn’t so surprising, but baby elephants, just like human babies, love to play and have fun! And this particular baby seems to be smiling!
3. Elephants Love Their Tools
Elephants show an amazing ability to manipulate tools, often using their trunks as we use our arms and hands. Grasping sticks with their trunks, they are able to swat flies or dig watering holes. They can also make appropriate tools by breaking longer branches into shorter ones. Researchers observed this behavior in eight of 34 adult wild elephants in Nagarhole National Park, Karnataka, India.
4. Elephants Understand Foreign Languages
Well, not all humans understand more than one language, and probably not all elephants do either, but some elephants can understand foreign languages. Some wild elephants can discern the languages humans are speaking, such as the those of the Masai group in Kenya (who occasionally kill elephants) and Kamba group (who don’t pose as much of a threat). Scientists experimented by playing recordings of Masai men speaking; they found that elephant herds were about twice as likely to retreat than if they heard the voices of Kamba men.
5. Elephants Love to Look at Themselves in the Mirror
Elephants can recognize their own reflection, showing self-awareness seen before only in humans, great apes and bottle nose dolphins. U.S. researchers made this discovery by studying the behavior of Asian elephants in front of a tall mirror. One of the animals repeatedly touched a white cross painted on her forehead — a classic test used to assess mirror self-recognition in children and apes. Perhaps they will soon by taking selfies, too!
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