Friday, June 5, 2015

Five things that make elephants special

Courtesy of Defenders of Wildlife.
I'm grateful this morning to Don Barry of Defenders of Wildlife for providing this fascinating information about elephants - awe-inspiring animals with characteristics that remind us of our kinship with this species and inspire us as well to learn more about other members of the ecological web of relationships to which we human beings belong.

In this morning's email, Barry writes:

Dear Virginia,
Elephants capture our imagination, and for good reason!
The largest living land animals, elephants live complex social lives which we are only beginning to understand. Here are just five of the things that make elephants special.
  1. A male Asian elephant named Koshik – can imitate human speech – matching Korean speech format frequencies in such detail that Korean native speakers can readily understand and transcribe the imitations.
  2. Elephants are the only non-human species known to mourn their dead. Researchers have documented many instances of death rituals at which elephants will somberly visit the bones of other dead elephants.
  3. You know that old saying about how an elephant never forgets? Well, it’s amazing what they can remember. Research has shown than an elephant matriarch can keep track of up to 30 herd-mates at a time. Researcher Richard Byrne concludes that elephant memories are "far in advance of anything other animals have been shown to have."
  4. Elephants are capable of expressing complex thoughts such as warning others of danger, reconciling differences and communicating needs and desires using a system of visual and acoustic signals. Amazingly, recent discoveries show that most vocal calls are at a frequency that humans can’t even hear!
  5. Overhunting by humans is believed to be a factor in both mastodon and mammoth extinctions. Stopping poaching and illegal wildlife trafficking in elephant ivory will be essential in order to stop Asian and African elephants from suffering the same fate.
Elephants are truly incredible creatures! That’s why it’s so important that we do everything we can to protect them from illegal wildlife trafficking, which includes stopping the demand for Ivory right here in the U.S.
Donald Barry
Don Barry Senior Vice President, Conservation Programs
Defenders of Wildlife

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