It has always been very puzzling to me how a four-legged vegetarian, unable to use its mouth to graze and plucks its food with a prehensile snout, can eat enough to grow to the size of an elephant. Added to this an elephant chews as slowly as an educated gentleman, walks hundreds of miles and can run up to speeds of 25 miles per hour or 40 kilometres per hour – but still it manages to grow in both height and girth.
There are a little herd of three African elephants at West Midland Safari Park - here is a clip showing two of the elephants playing the harmonica.
An elephant in the wild if not slaughtered for its tusks or its feet may live into old age. In fact, they have been known to live as long as a man. In Africa, that is up to seventy years and in Asia (a slightly smaller elephant easily identified by its small ears) up to eighty years.
These are very young elephants and are still in their teen years – their pictures were taken at WMS.
Elephants can not only make the beautiful trumpeting sounds that man has listened to for thousands of years but they also have a very low pitch sound that is used as language. This sound is so low it travels through the ground for hundreds of miles and becomes something similar to a telephone system. If a herd is in trouble or wants to communicate news then it can advise herds many miles away. This is very useful as the wild herds split into genders. The females and younger members of the herd congregate together, feeding and visiting water holes whilst the male members go off in another group. They meet up occasionally and during these periods the older females are usually impregnated before the males depart once more taking with them any of the male calves that have reached maturity. A baby calf grown inside its mother’s womb for 22 months before being born. Elephant puberty is similar to that of humans and range from usually ten to fifteen years of age.
Whilst watching these beautiful animals one of them picked up a fairly thick stick and stomped off with it waving it backwards and forwards and onto its back. After a while the elephant put the stick against the ground still holding it tightly at the top with its trunk – it lifted one of its feet and pressed down onto the stick snapping it in half. The elephant then found a much lighter and slightly longer stick and pick it with its trunk (you can see the stick in the elephant’s truck on the first of the three pictures above) the stick was whisked this way and that, tossed up in the air, curled up in the elephants trunk then uncurled. The game went on for at least a further ten minutes before I left and even then the stick was still being manoeuvred about in this elephant game. This is the first time I have ever seen an African elephant playing – it was hypnotic to watch.