Tightrope walking elephants have become the latest must-see animal trick
and the fully-grown pachyderms have been trained to walk across reinforced
ropes in front of tourists at the controversial Safari World.
Even though we have fabulous special effects in the cinema and on DVD, we don't have the old big top circus with a dozen elephants all able to tricks like the above. All we have of the old 'Three ring
circus' is the saying, and for those of us fortunate to have seen Billy Smart's circus in the 1950s, wonderful memories. My American cousins say that Barnum and Bailey had bigger and better elephants,
however, they blew their cred with the claim that America invented the Elephant.
Logic says that elephants just don't nest in trees. Close inspection
reveals that the 'Elephant's nest' is some way off the ground, thus the elephant
could not have just sat on bundle of sticks just off the ground.
When we magnified the picture it looks as though the tree is in sharp focus, but
the elephant is slightly blurred. Could it be that someone transposed a
clear jpeg file of an elephant over another image of a very large nest?
However, when all is said and done, it would make a great picture to go with a
pub called: 'The Elephant's Nest'
Firstly, Five is an unusual name, especially for
an African Elephant. Secondly Five has come up with an unusual use for her trunk - she uses it to paint!
With help from her keeper, Five has painted more than 50 works of art. Painting experts
even think that
her unique contemporary style is worthy of an exhibition exhibition. Even better, her masterpieces are in demand and you could buy one at the West Midland Safari Park in Bewdley, Worcestershire.
Back to that strange name, Five was one of three African Elephants that were brought to England from an elephant orphanage in South Africa - when she was five years old. That was back in 1998, thus she is
14 going on 15 in 2007. Elephant ages and maturity are not unlike humans, thus Five would now be considered a teenager in the elephant world.
The African elephants (Loxodonta africana) are the ones with the bigger ears. In fact, African elephants are also taller and heavier than their Indian cousins (Elephas maximus). A large African
elephant could be 12ft at the shoulder and weigh 8 tons. Mostly elephants amble serenely at human walking speed, but in a stampede they could reach 25 mph, which is faster than an Olympic sprinter.
say an elephant never forgets. This is also good news for other elephants and they care for members of their family if they become ill or injured by poachers.
In African elephants, both male and females have enlarged incisors which develop into the famous tusks. Whereas, in Indian elephants, tusks development is much greater in males than females.
Confusingly, some Indian male elephants don't develop tusks, thus you cannot rely on the presence of tusks to determine the gender of an Indian elephant.
Another difference is in the shape of the back, the
African elephants dips, and you could imaging a gigantic saddle fitting on their back. The Indian elephant on the other hand has a level or slightly convex back, saddling would be more difficult.
get a close look at the trunk, the Indian elephant has only one 'finger' at the end of its trunk, whereas the African elephant has two lips or fingers. The picture to the right also illustrates how the
trunk is really an extension of the nose. While you cannot see the tips of the trunks in our pictures, you should be able to see from the ears that 'Polo elephant' is Indian, while 'Five' the painting
elephant has to be African.
It's also worth checking the toes on the hind
feet. Both African and Indian elephants have five toes on the forelegs, so
that does not help discriminate. However, the hind legs may reveal a
difference. Only three toes is a strong indicator of an African elephant,
while five toes would almost certainly mean an Indian elephant.
That leaves the situation where you see four toes on the hind legs, most
likely this is an Asian elephant.
A group of elephants can be called a 'memory of elephants', although a
herd is a more common collective noun. On a related theme, elephants
follow cattle in that the females, males and offspring are called, cows,
bulls and calves respectively.
The elephant's memory is legendary, what is not so well known is they
have a special ceremony for greeting a long lost member of the herd. In this
greeting ceremony both elephants flap their ears, trumpet and generally
It would be easy to be fooled into thinking that elephants drank through
their trunks; in fact they use the trunk as a funnel to collect water, but
then pour it into their mouth. Sometimes elephants choose to spray
themselves with the water rather than drinking it. Incidentally, there
are no bones in an elephant's trunk.
An elephant detective could track an elephant by following their individual
footprints. What would help such stalking is the elephant's habit of
using the same paths as their ancestors.
Elephants display 'right-handedness', not in their limbs, but in the
tusks. Close examination of an elephant's tusks will reveal that one
tusk has a blunter tip and is thicker than its less favoured counterpart. The
reason for this difference is that in their natural habitat elephants use their tusk(s) for
gathering food, and digging for water. Consequently the tusk on their favourite becomes more developed, but blunter.
Elephant's ivory poses a terrible dilemma, it's a wonderful and
versatile material, but the fact that tusks are so valuable encourages
poaching. It seems particularly obscene to think of such a noble,
sensitive, joyous animal suffering at the hands of barbaric poachers.
All that Will and Guy can do about it is not to buy anything made of ivory.
The gestation period of mammals is in proportion to their size.
Thus, pregnancy in mice lasts about 21 days, whereas in elephants it takes
over 21 months.
March 13th is National Thai Elephant Day. While September 22nd is
Elephant Appreciation Day.