Did you know that elephants don’t have particularly good vision and can only see up to 20 metres? There have been documented occurrences of entire herds being led by a blind member who was still able to fulfil its leadership role! Elephants have beautifully long eyelashes to help prevent dust and grit blowing into their deep brown eyes. In addition to the upper and lower eyelids, they have a third eyelid which moves horizontally across the eye; these additional eyelids help protect eyes when feeding, bathing and dusting. Their poor eyesight is compensated with the clever use of their trunk for touch and sense of smell. Elephants also have incredible hearing.
What do you see when you first look at an elephant? That’s right; it’s the trunk. Though when you look at an elephant’s skeleton, you’d have no idea that this rather long ‘nose’ actually existed. It’s far more than a nose, however.
Adult elephants can lift three-quarters of a ton with their trunks one minute and then use it for snorkelling in a lake the next. The trunk is also used as a finger, guests can watch them dexterously grabbing things.. especially bananas!
An elephants sense of smell is 400 percent better than that of a bloodhound! It is thought that they can smell bodies of water that are several miles away.
The gestation period of an elephant is up to 660 days, that’s a staggering 95 weeks when you consider a human pregnancy is approximately 280 days or 40 weeks! A new-born calf weighs about 200lb (90kg) and stands at 3 feet tall. An elephant will have up to four babies in her lifetime.
Both male and female African elephants have tusks, but only some male Asian elephants. Some female Asian elephants grow barely visible, stumpy tusks that are called ‘tushes’.
Elephants spend most of their day eating; up to 18 hours at least! They eat grass, fruit, bamboo, bushes, trees, and roots. They eat for such a long time because they only digest about 50 percent of what is eaten, so they need to consume more food to ensure they are suitably nourished. As a result of this, they release a lot of gas (methane) and produce up to 100 kg of manure each day!
The mahouts at Samui Elephant Haven are the guardians of the elephants. The word ‘mahout’ in Thai is ‘Kwan Chang’ and translates into ‘the one who walks with an elephant’. The mahouts each have one elephant to look after and nurture; it is incredible to see the bond that they form and the trust that they display.
The elephants living at the Haven previously endured harrowing lives providing entertainment for tourist-shows and walking endlessly for trekking. With that life now behind them, these lucky elephants are now free to express their instincts without fear – interacting with each other in beautiful natural surroundings, foraging on native plants in the jungle and playing together in their pools and mud pits.
Elephants have hairy heads, just like humans. Elephants have certain behaviours that help them keep their cool; from ear flapping to dust baths and water-spraying. They also lose heat through their skin and from blood flowing through their large ears. In a slight breeze, the elephant’s hair can enhance its ability to lose heat by up to 23 percent!
The anatomy of an elephants foot is formed in such a way that it essentially walks on tiptoe. Their spongy feet mean that they can walk almost silently. An Asian elephant has five toenails on their front feet and four on the back whereas African Savanna elephants have four and three! A baby elephant is born with toenails that curl underneath their feet; eventually they will wear away.