Confessions of a Mama ElephantMay 17, 2012
Good morning everyone! Yes, I am a mama elephant. I asked the Micato Safaris writers to transcribe a blog post for me, as my flat feet are terrible for typing. After all, why should those vain lions get all the press?
What You’ll See Me Doing:
Usually you can find me eating, but I also love to bathe and swim, and if you want to hang out with me your best bet is to spend some time near the rivers and lakes of Southern and East Africa. Just be aware if you’re sitting in “the splash zone” and each of my kids can suck up to fourteen litres of water into their trunks at once, and they love to play…
They Also Call Me:
In East Africa, where they speak Swahili, I’m known as Tembo, or Ndovu (they like me so much, they named me twice!) In parts of South Africa and Zimbabwe the Zulu people call me Indlovu; in other parts of South Africa and Namibia, people who speak Afrikaans call me Oliphant. The Setswana speakers in Botswana call me But when anyone in the family needs me, they usually just amble over and cuddle—I am a mom, after all
How My Family Is Like Yours:
I’m always with my family, too, so if you visit me you’re sure to meet everyone. As a mama elephant, I spend my days with all the other ladies and their babies. They boys get a little feisty and controlling around age fourteen, so that’s when we kick them out on their own. Male elephants are loners—your typical cranky bachelors, always fighting with each other—though sometimes they’ll get together with other males and cruise for ladies up and down the savannah. But the women are very close; in fact some female elephants have died from loneliness in captivity. This is why human organizations like David Sheldrick’s Wildlife Trust are so important—orphaned baby elephants need special help, because they’re so used to having a big family around them.
I’m the matriarch of my family, which means I’m the oldest and biggest, and everyone follows me. If mama isn’t happy, nobody’s happy, and that’s the truth!
Most Embarrassing Facts:
Oh my goodness gracious, really? Well, ok, I suppose I can spill a few beans. Let’s see…
I’m the largest land animal in the world, which already is kind of embarrassing (though also impressive, you have to admit.) I somehow have to keep this giant body working and moving on an all-vegetarian diet, plus feed all my wee babies (ok, my 200-pound babies—they’re still wee to me). So for about sixteen hours a day, you can find me eating. In fact, I only sleep for about two hours a day… all the rest of my time is taken up by eating, bathing, and taking care of the kids.
Also, well, there’s another draw-back to being so gosh-darn big: I can’t run or jump. I pretty much just have two gaits: either I walk, or I walk fast. To be fair, when I get mad (and when you mess with my kids, I get furious!) this fast walk is certainly speedier than your run. In fact, humans have clocked me at 25 mph when I’m charging, which is not too shabby for a 6-ton mama, wouldn’t you agree?
And one more thing: thick skin. This actually doesn’t embarrass me—I’m proud of my one-inch thick flesh. Nothing really bothers me—not bugs or acacia thorns or sitting on a pokey log—because I’m so difficult to hurt. Hence, I’m a pretty mellow gal, unlike my excitable neighbors, the antelope. This is why some people call elephants pachyderms, which means “thick-skinned.”
Just to keep this big ol’ body going, I have to eat 300-600 pounds of food a day, which means I can’t be all that picky anyway. I’ll eat acacia leaves, herbs, tall grass, fruit, shrubs… whatever I can get!
Elephant grass. You have to love a food that’s named after you, don’t you think? And anyway, if I don’t like it, who will? Elephant grass is tough to eat and to digest, and with my crazy digestion system I’m one of the only animals on the savannah that can handle it. I know, I know, it’s very predictable—mom eats all the left-overs. I’m fine with that!
Diet: Vegetarian (if I was a biologist, I’d say “herbivore”… but I’m an elephant, so I say whatever I want)
Average life span in the wild: 50-70 years (we’re the oldest animals on the savannah!)
Size:About 12 feet tall. It’s too bad we don’t have thumbs; we would have been great at basketball.
Weight: Don’t ask. I’ve broken every scale I’ve ever stood on! But people say that we range from 12,000-14,000 lbs (which is 6-7 tons). To put that into perspective, I weigh about the same as a hundred grown men, all piled up.
Protection status: Vulnerable. Our beauty is our curse, as my family members have been hunted for our gorgeous tusks for decades. Ivory, schmivory—doesn’t it look better on me?
Group name: “Herd” is most common, but I prefer the lesser-used “Parade”—because every day is a celebration when you’re in an elephant family.
It is no wonder an old English cleric once said ,”There is no creature among all the Beasts of the world which hath so great and ample demonstration of the power and wisdom of almighty God as the Elephant.” If you need some help turning your African research into a stunning trip, simply get in touch with one of our Safari Specialists and they’ll guide you through the process.