November 2021

Pure bliss

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Pure bliss

One of the greatest joys we can enjoy is seeing the joy we give others - like watching a loved one receiving a thoughtful gift, or watching someone thoroughly enjoying themselves. This elephant is known to us because of his big tusks, stocky form (we call him “Butch”) and his good nature. He is generally calm, gregarious and loves nothing more than an enthusiastic bought of splashing and spraying and mudbathing. On this day he made a beeline for the water, strode in, squirted water all over himself, and then proceeded to churn up the shallow water into a mud pit!

Elephants’ optimum body temperature is the same as ours at about 36 ℃ (96,8 ℉ ) (don’t we know this so well from Covid and having to take our temperatures everywhere we go) and they have several ways of maintaining this, even on sweltering days. Their large ears, the largest of any animal, have a lot of tiny blood vessels that are close to the surface. They flap their ears to create a breeze, fan themselves and cool down their blood supply efficiently. Their blood vessels can also dilate to increase the flow of blood to their ears and increase cooling. They spray water and mud on their bodies, especially behind their ears, to help the cooling effect. When they spray themselves their wrinkly skin and sparse hairs trap the liquid and keep it on for longer.

During the hottest hours they seek out the shade of trees or riverbed reeds. Another interesting technique is that scientists have noted that their skin is somewhat permeable. Most mammals, including humans, sweat through glands connected to pores, but elephants only have pores between their toes. By their skin being permeable they lose far more moisture via evaporation and are thus able to cool down faster. But they have to drink a lot of water to keep from dehydrating, up to 200 litres per day in the height of summer.

Jenny Hishin
By Jenny Hishin
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