Have you ever wondered how African elephants keep cool? Their optimum body temperature is 36 ℃ (96,8 ℉ ) and they have some nifty techniques and adaptations to maintain this, even on scorchingly hot days. A number of the methods that elephants use to keep cool can be seen in the above video. Unlike most mammals, elephants cannot sweat to cool down. Here are some of the ways that African elephants keep cool.
Big Ears Help African Elephants Keep Cool
African elephants have very large ears, the largest of any animal. They account for 20% of their overall surface area! Each ear has a lot of tiny blood vessels that are close to the surface. If an African elephant needs to cool down, they flap their ears to create a breeze 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. It is estimated that around 12 liters of blood can be circulated through an African elephants' ear each minute. This can cool down their body temperature by about three ℃.
African elephants also use their ears like a fan to create a breeze that cools the rest of their body.
Wrinkles & Hair Helps African Elephants Keep Cool
We all know that elephants have lots of wrinkles, but what are they for? African elephants don't have sweat glands like humans so scientists believe that their vast amount of wrinkles helps in the process of cooling down. When an African elephant sprays water or mud over its body, the wrinkles and hairs collect the liquid and mud and keep it on for longer, helping the African elephant to keep cool.
The long, wiry hairs on an African elephant are also believed to help cool the elephant down. The hairs act as heat conductors to draw heat away from their huge bodies. Scientists have found that in still conditions the sparse hair of African elephants can increase heat loss by five per cent and up to 23 per cent in a light breeze.
Water & Mud Helps African Elephants Keep Cool
If just flapping of their huge ears is not enough to keep cool then African elephants will go and find water or mud to cool themselves. The elephants spray water and mud on their bodies, especially behind their ears, to help the cooling effect. Elephants can sometimes be seen at Kariega going for a swim in a dam or the river to get cool. They submerge their whole bodies under the water which is a brilliant sight to see.
Shade Helps African Elephants Keep Cool
On extremely hot days African elephants will find a shady spot to help keep cool. At Kariega we have many forested valleys which have ample amounts of vegetation and streams running through them. This is a perfect area for the elephants to spend time until the temperatures cool. They will come out to eat grass in the cool of the early evening and at sunset.
Did you see any of the African elephant adaptations and methods for keeping cool while on your Kariega safari? Send us your pictures and videos of your elephant experiences via Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube.
“Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson