Elephants in Thailand always being in special position of Thailand's history and heritage. As a symbol of the country, there will be a lot to explore. We are here to present you the interesting facts and rich culture behind this magnificent creature!
Their living habits
1. Pregnant for Years
Elephants have a longer pregnancy than any other mammal — almost 22 months. Human pregnancies averaged 280 days, or 10 months. The female elephant lives 60 to 70 years, but has only about 4 offspring in her whole lifetime.
2. Baby elephant has a long childhood
Elephants, like human, is one of the few creatures which born without survival skills. Hence, they need to learn from scratch. Elephants and humans have similar life span, and similarly, they spend a long time (about 10 years) learning before they are considered as independent adults.
3. Elephants can use tools
Elephants are known to scratch themselves with sticks where they cannot reach, while fashionable elephants fly whips from branches or grasslands. Others were observed digging holes to reach drinking water and plugging the holes with balls formed by chewing bark to prevent water from evaporating and saving for later use.
4. Elephants really do grieve like us
Elephants have such a strong social group sense that when one of them pass away, they will be in great depression for a long time. The family will stop to mourn for the dead if they see the bones or bodies of another elephant on the road, even if they didn't know him. Mourning process includes gently touching the bones with their torso and covering the body with leaves and grass, all in a quiet and solemn atmosphere. If the dead one are their family member, it's normal to stay besides it for days or weeks without eating anything.
5. The only mammals that can't jump
The reason why elephant don't dump is simple: they don't need to. Most of the nervous animals - such as kangaroos, monkeys, and frogs - may take advantage of speed, flexibility, agility and jump to avoid predators. By contrast, elephants rely on their large body and group living habit to ensure their safety. At the same time, study shows that it's hard to get four tons out of the ground at a time. Image that, it would shake the ground! On the base of body structure, the jumping animals need very flexible ankles, strong Achilles tendon and calf muscle. While elephants are not equipped with any of them. Their lime muscles are very fragile and the ankles are rigid.
6. Elephants use dirt as sunscreen – clean or dirty?
Even if you didn't see a real elephant, you've probably seen them bathing in the river on TV. You may have noticed that elephants also like to spread sand over their back after taking a bath. Why do elephants like to play in the mud? Although the skin of elephant look hard, it is more sensitive that we thought. The folds in their skin are subjected to bloodsucking mosquitoes and other insects. The heat of the sun also seared their back. Therefore, elephants spray sand on their body to protect their skin, which is the same as human applying skin cream.
7. Big stomach
What does the elephant eat? It's not surprising that giant elephant eats a large amount of food. Thailand's Indian elephant eats less than an African elephant - but for us, it's still a lot more. An elephant eat about 330 pounds while a human adult eats no larger than 5 pounds a day. The Indian elephants drink 160 liters of water a day on average. As for the time, elephants take about 16 hours a day to eat. They eat so much because they couldn't digest food properly. As a result, they need to consume more food to ensure enough nutrition.
8. Sucking water or drinking water?
A Trunk distinguishes elephants. Although the elephants do suck water with its nose, they do not drink from it. They suck water into its nose, put the nose in their mouth, and spout it into its mouth, so that they drink water. Elephants suck only half a nose of water at a time, but even with that, they can hold 7,000-8,000 milliliters.
9. Strong family bond
Elephants have strong family ties and close social relationships. Each herd consists of 8-100 elephants, led by the oldest (and often the largest) chiefs. When a calf is born, the whole family raises it. Males usually leave to build a new family when they are considered independent adults, usually after the age of 12.
10. What they call
Male elephant is called bulls and accordingly the female is called cows. Baby elephant is called the calf.
11. Help to sow seeds
While they're migrating in search of food, elephants spread seeds around the land where they have eaten, making them an important part of their ecosystems. After eating, seeds are released through elephant dung. One South African study found that elephants are capable of transporting these seeds up to 40 miles!
12. Say "Hello" with trunk
When you say "hi" to someone, will you raise your hands? Elephants have no hands, their noses act as hands. In face, their nose can do a lot of things the same with human hands. So elephant raise their nose to greet each other! For example, when two elephants meet, they may touch and smell each other's noses, or even entangle them.
If you have choice to see a real elephant, keep mind on their interesting greeting ways. If an elephant stand by you and lift its trunk in your direction, it's probably smelling you.Elephants have terrible eyesight, but a very keen sense of smell. This may be funny for humans, because we don't communicate much through smell, but elephants use smell to understand a lot about the surroundings.
Secrets behind their great bulks
1. Asian elephants and African elephants are different
The Asian elephants in Thailand are quite different with their African cousins. The most significant difference between Asian and African elephants is that African elephants have tusks, both female and male, while Asian elephants have tusks only for males. Besides, they have a lot difference in details. Unlike African elephants, Asian elephants are smaller in size, more rounded in back arch, not as large and regular in ear shape as African elephants, and more smooth in the surface of their long teeth. The African elephant is difficult to domesticate, while the Asian elephant is docile.
2. Big brain and big intelligence
The elephant is one of the smartest animals in the world. Some of the reasons for elephants to have such high levels of intelligence are their brain structures. The elephant's brain weighs about 5 kilograms (11 pounds), heavier than that of any other land animal. Although the largest mammal - whale is about 20 times the weight of the elephant, the whale's brain is only twice as heavy as the elephant's brain. It's said that elephants have the same intelligence as human children of 4-5 years old.
Elephants show a variety of behaviors, including those related to sadness, learning, using tools, memory and communication, etc. that's why they are widely used for circus performance. Aristotle describes the elephant as" the animal that surpasses all others in wit and mind".
3. Who needs a thumb when you have a trunk?
In fact, young elephants suck their trucks, as the interesting habit of human babies sucking their thumbs. They do so for the same reason – sucking reflex. Elephants are born with a strong sucking reflex which helps them unconsciously approach their mother's breasts and know what to do. When a baby elephant does not breast-feed, it may suck on its nose, just as a human baby sucks a pacifier.
4. Listen sound with their feet
The elephant listen not only by large ears but also with its feet. They can pick up subsonic rumblings made by other elephants through vibrations in the ground.
5. Elephants Are Very Scared of Bees.
Although this is hard to believe, the giant elephant instinctively fears bees. The skin of elephants is thick while there are many fragile folds. Their wrinkled skin is sensitive to external irritation. Bees can cause great discomfort to elephants when they bite them.
In addition, one possible factor is that elephants have weak eyesight, compared with their sensitive hearing. The elephants can definitely hear the bees coming but cannot see them, due to their small size. To elephants, bees are invisible killers buzzing around them.
They are good producers
1. Elephant manure has beneficial uses
A creature the size of an elephant must produces a lot of waste. It may be hard to imagine that elephant dung has several uses. It is a rich fertilizer, widely used by farmers all over Thailand. Burning elephant droppings is a good way to get rid of mosquitoes in Thailand's countryside! If you want to bring back an unusual souvenir from Thailand, how about some elephant toilet paper? Of course, it goes through a lot of processing to keep it clean and tasteless.
2. Thai elephants are used to produce coffee
You may have heard of Kopi Luwak, but did you know that elephants can make a unique cup of coffee in the same way? Black Ivory coffee is made from beans that have passed through an elephant's digestive system. Studies show that the enzymes in the elephant's digestive system can digest bitter protein from coffee beans, so the "elephant droppings" coffee has less bitterness and a smoother taste. It costs as much as $60 each cup.
3. The most expensive painting done by elephants
In 2004, eight elephant artists jointly created a landscape painting which set a new Guinness World record and became the world's most expensive elephant painting (£20,660 or US$39,000). These elephants came from Mae Sa Elephant Center in Chiang Mai, Thailand. The painting is 12 meters long and 2.4 meters high, with trees, blue sky, grassland and colorful flowers. All about the elephant's favorite natural home. The canvas was separated into two part. One panel was bought by American businesswoman Warrin and donated to the Thai government as a national treasure. The other one remains in the Art Gallery of Mae Sa Elephant Center for visitors from all over the world.
Human society & elephants
1. The elephant is a religious symbol in Thailand
The elephant is a symbol of the Lord Buddha and Buddhism. Legend has it that the mother of the Buddha, Queen Maya, had a peculiar dream before entering her womb. In the dream, a white elephant gave her a lotus flower, another Buddhist symbol. After waked up, she consulted a fortune teller and was told that she would have a special son. Her son would grew up to be an important spiritual leader or a powerful ruler. The words did came true. When the son grew up, he adopted the name of Buddha and established a new religion - Buddhism.
2. The elephant is a royal symbol in Thailand
The Thai royal family has a tradition of raising elephants for hundreds of years. Those elephants are often used in royal event, all in colorful costumes and are colorful-painted. White elephants are considered extremely lucky so have royal status. All white elephants have to given to the Thai King.
3. Thai elephants were once used in wars
In ancient times, Thai elephants instead of horses plays a great role in the war. Their strength, shape, teeth, longevity and endurance make them ideal shields and weapons in battle. War elephants can be divided into two categories: one in combat and another used for logistical purposes. The advantage of war elephants is that cold weapons such as swords and spears do hardly any harm to elephants. Many war elephants even equipped with iron armor and kneepad. However, the development of gunpowder weapons made these creatures easier to shoot down, and completely step down from the stage of war history.
4. There's two yearly festival to honour Thailand's elephants
There are two festivals in Thailand are related to elephant - Surin Elephant Roundup and King's Cup Elephant Polo.
Surin Elephant Roundup is hold each year to pay tribute to Thai elephants. The festival is known as its big parade where hundreds of elephants around the country gather, and then enjoy a grand buffet. and vegetables fruit are placed on long tables for elephants to enjoy. Then it will have several days of elephant demonstrations at the stadium.
King's Cup Elephant Polo is a champion elephant polo competition held three times a year in Thailand, Nepal and Sri Lanka. Each match has two teams to play. Each team consists of 5 men and 5 elephants. The event is open for the public. You have only to pay 200 baht. The competition was set to raise money for elephant-related initiatives around Thailand. But recently, it is accused of ill-treatment of animals and illegally use of money.
5. Elephants appear in many official seals
The image of the elephant was identified as a Siamese flag in the early 20th century. The flag of Ramah II was a white ring adorned with Thai auspicious white elephants. Today, elephant patterns still exist in seals in many provinces. Bangkok's seal, for example, shows the Hindu deity Indra riding an elephant. Chiang Mai's seal shows an elephant in a palace, and Chiang Rai is an elephant surrounded by mythical Naga creatures. Mae Hong Sin's provincial seal shows an elephant bathing in the water.
6. Elephants played an important role in industry and agriculture
Elephants used to be an important part of Thailand's logging industry. Southeast Asia is a tropical rainforest area, so transportation among forests is very difficult. Domesticated elephants can understand many words and obey the command of the elephant mahout. They drag heavy wood from the forest area to the riverbank and push the wood into the river during the rainy season. The wood floats down-river and is picked up to the wharf.
7. Elephants are important in tourism in Thailand
Many tourists dream of riding elephants in Thailand. But many of them are now aware of the harmful effects of elephant tourism. Few people see the dark side of elephant tourism. Fortunately, there are now several moral parks and shelters where you can interact with elephants in a harmless environment.
8. "White Elephant"
In ancient Siam, the white elephant was very rare, so it was always regarded as a treasure. The general elephant could be used for labor, but the white elephant could only to be admired, not to work, and the daily expenses were very large. Even the aristocrats of Thailand could not afford it. If the king of Thailand was dissatisfied with his subjects, he would gave the vassal a white elephant. The elephant was both a treasure and a royal gift so the vassal had to do his best to worship the white elephant, and the family quickly declined. Later in English, the white elephant was synonymous with something expensive and useless.
9. Thailand's elephants are endangered
Sadly, despite their high status in Thailand, recent decades witness a dramatic decline of elephant population. It is estimated that there were once about 100,000 elephants in the mid-ninth century, but now there are only about 4,000 elephants. What's more, over 50% of them are domestic. Asian elephants are now considered endangered.
>>See more about Elphant Protection in Thailand
10. Illegal hunting and trade
The Ivory of Indian elephant weighs up approximately 22 pounds. Each ivory costs about $1,000 to $15, 000 on the black market in Asia. Although African elephant ivory is bigger, while that of Asian elephant is more white and soft.
Asian elephant has become an endangered species because of illegal hunting. The hunting of male elephant lead to artificial selection of elephant genes, and the proportion of male elephant genes that do not grow ivory or shorter ivory is greatly increased. If condition worsens, it will be difficult to see any elephant with tusks in the near future.
11. Suffering training
Most of the Asian elephants are used in logging and tourism, including elephant circus performance, riding or street begging. The trainer of domesticated elephants is called Phajaan. The process involves tying up wild elephants in narrow cages, beating them to surrender, and starving them in order to break their spirit.
>>See what you can do for them: Thailand Elphant Proctection
12. Volunteering with elephants - Elephant Sanctuary in Thailand
A chance to volunteer with elephants at an Thailand elephant sanctuary or elephant nature park. Help to give elephants a chance to live free in nature. Elephant volunteer project provides an alternative for elephants to move away from the busy city life and suffering of trekking & tourist rides by providing a shelter for elderly elephants, as well as engaging the local community in environmental and education projects.
Read more: Elephant Tours in Thailand