World Elephant Day

World Elephant DayToday, August 12, is World Elephant Day!

World Elephant Day focuses on raising awareness to help elephants. African and Asian elephants face many threats including poaching, habitat loss, human-elephant conflict, mistreatment in captivity, and more.

According to the World Elephant Day site:

World Elephant Day asks you to experience elephants in non-exploitive and sustainable environments where elephants can thrive under care and protection. On World Elephant Day, August 12, express your concern, share your knowledge and support solutions for the better care of captive and wild elephants alike.

African elephantWhat can you do to help elephants?

  • Learn about elephants and the important role they play in the ecosystem. (See our article, African elephant, to read more.)
  • Participate in eco-tourism whose operators treat elephants with respect. Boosting Africa’s economy through eco-tourism helps placate local residents who view elephants as pests.
  • Never buy, sell, or wear ivory.
  • Write to your politicians to speak out against poaching. (Americans can write a letter to the Secretary of State on the Wildlife Conservation Society website.)
  • Encourage the ethical treatment of elephants in captivity. Boycott circuses, whose unethical treatment includes chaining elephants up by their feet and trunks, as well as beating them frequently. Urge zoos to create environments similar to African elephants’ native habitat.

See the World Elephant Day’s page, How to Help Elephants, for more ideas.

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Elephant Fitted for Contact Lens

Elephant gets contact lens

Anne-Marie Verbruggen places a contact lens in the left eye of Win Thida, a 44-year-old Asian elephant at the Artis Zoo in Amsterdam. Photo by Artis Zoo.

Did you know that contact lenses are not just for people?  At the Artis Zoo in Amsterdam, Netherlands, veterinarian Anne-Marie Verbruggen fitted an Asian elephant with a special contact lens.  The 44-year-old elephant, named Win Thida, suffered from a scratched cornea after fighting with another elephant.  The contact lens will protect the eye while it heals.

This was the first time Verbruggen fitted an elephant with a contact lens, however, she has had experience giving horses contact lenses.  With the elephant, the challenge was with the massive size and weight of the animal.  According to Verbruggen, “Elephants can’t lie down for long before their immense weight impairs their breathing, so I used a ladder to get close enough. It wasn’t ideal, but it worked. She seemed happier straight away.”

For more information, see Spiegel Online.

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Elephant Calf at Toledo Zoo

Baby elephant at Toledo Zoo

Photo by Toledo Zoo.

The Toledo Zoo in Ohio announced the birth of a healthy male African elephant calf.  The newborn elephant, weighing over 200 pounds, stood within minutes of being born and began nursing a few hours later.  The baby’s mother Renee has so far displayed “excellent maternal behavior,” but zoo staff will continue to monitor the pair ensuring they are both healthy and bonded.

Adult African elephants can weigh up to 6000 kg (6.6 tons) and measure up to 3.3 m (10 ft.) at the shoulder, making it the world’s largest land mammal. In their native habitat of sub-Saharan Africa, African elephants play a vital role in maintaining ecological harmony.  They ingest plants and fruits, walk for miles, and excrete the seeds in fertile dung piles. In this way, new plants can grow in different areas and can cross fertilize. In fact, 90 different tree species rely on the elephant for propagation. African elephants also dig holes to expose underground springs. This allows smaller animals to access water in drier times.

To learn more about the Toledo Zoo’s baby elephant, see Toledo Blade.

Learn more about African elephants at Animal Fact Guide.

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Book Review – Elephant Reflections

Elephant ReflectionsElephant Reflections, a beautiful book released by the University of California Press this past May, features gorgeous photography that transcends conventional nature photography. Providing a window into the intimate lives of elephants, the photos would be at home in an art gallery.

Captured by Karl Ammann, the photographs are categorized into themes such as “Colors,” “Textures,” and “Portraits.” The images beg to be scoured over, luring the reader to examine every detail.

The photos are accompanied by an eloquently-written text by Dale Peterson. Peterson’s text informs the reader about many of the captivating behaviors and societal norms of elephants. For example, elephants are thought to use infrasound for long-distance communication. The sounds are too low for humans to hear, but elephants can sense the vibrations from miles away using their large ears and the soles of their feet.

Children will be drawn to the large format photos, while parents and teachers will find the text enhances their appreciation of the images.

Purchase Elephant Reflections at

You can also learn about elephants here at Animal Fact Guide. Check out our article: African Elephant.

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