14 elephant facts you can use to impress people at parties (if they're into elephants).

Let's talk elephants – we all know elephants, right? Big, gray, some in Africa and some in Asia. We all know elephants. There are a ton of elephant facts out there.

But what I'm about to tell you are no ordinary elephant facts. These elephant facts are totally bananas. 14 of them. 14 totally bananas elephant facts.


Are you ready?

1. Ancient elephant relatives were weirdos.

The platybelodon demonstrating that every body is a beach body. Image from Margret Flinsch/Wikimedia Commons.

There are currently two species of elephant — the Asian and the African elephant — but they have a long family tree. A long, very weird family tree. In addition to the woolly mammoth and mastodon, there were strange elephant-platypus-looking hybrids like the platybelodon, with its shovel-like jaws, or deinotherium, a species with tusks that pointed backward. Backward!

2. Speaking of weird relatives, the Mediterranean used to be home to a species of miniature elephants.

Image from ninjatacoshell/Wikimedia Commons.

Called dwarf elephants, these guys were found on islands such as Crete and Sicily.

3. A white elephant is a real thing.

Image from Walters Art Museum/Wikimedia Commons.

If you've ever received an automatic egg cooker or a leg lamp at an office party, you're probably familiar with the term "white elephant" — a gift you don't want but can't refuse. But did you know a white elephant is a real animal?

A white elephant is another name for a very pale, often albino, elephant. In some southeast Asian countries like Thailand and India, a white elephant is a sign of good luck.

So what do they have to do with stuff from SkyMall magazine?

Well, according to legend, the King of Thailand would occasionally give one of his sacred white elephants to a political enemy of his. The enemy couldn't exactly turn down a gift from the king, and it was considered impolite to use a sacred animal as a glorified pack mule, so they just had to keep it, leaving the elephant to eat the poor sap out of house and home. That's the legend anyway.

4. And, actually, a white elephant isn't actually white.

Image from Yathin S Krishnappa/Wikimedia Commons.

An albino elephant is actually kind of reddish-brown or pinkish. Both Indian and African elephants can be albinos.

5. Hannibal really did march elephants over the Alps.


Image by Henri Motte/Wikimedia Commons.

In 218 B.C., a Carthaginian general named Hannibal decided to invade Roman Italy. And Hannibal wanted to bring his famous war elephants. The problem? He was in Spain, with thousands of miles and multiple mountain ranges between him and Rome.

So what did he do? He marched his entire army including — yes — his elephants, right over the Alps. Talk about dedication.

Though maybe he would have had more luck trying to swim across because:

6. Elephants are great in the water...

No one will expect an attack ... from the aqueduct! Image from Hans Hillewaert/Wikimedia Commons.

Though they might not look it, elephants are practically synchronized swimmers. An elephant's trunk can even be used like a snorkel, which is just brilliant.

7. ...but they're not so great on the basketball court.

Elephants can't jump, but they can still dunk. Image from Charlesjsharp/Wikimedia Commons.

Elephants can't jump. They're just too big and weigh too much. Although, really, if we're still talking basketball, that might not matter so much considering they can be 11 feet tall!

8. They live in dusty habitats but still keep their homes in order.

Image from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service/Flickr.

Elephants help keep their homes healthy. They pull down trees and bushes, which helps the grass grow. They dig up salt licks and water holes that other animals need to survive. Even their poop is important! And because elephants are so important, they have a special designation: a keystone species. Like how a keystone keeps an arch intact, keystone species keep their environment intact.

9. Elephants hate bees.

Image from David Brossard/Flickr.

Elephants will sometimes raid people's crops. And it turns out, it's really hard to design a fence that'll stop a 12,000-pound animal. Wood? Smash. Stone? Smash. Electric? Smash smash smash. Unfortunately, this drives many poor farmers to use guns or other weapons to try to drive the elephants away.

But we may have found a secret weapon to deter elephants: bees. Thousands and thousands of bees. Elephants hate bees. They'll even run away from just the sound of them! A nonprofit known as The Elephants and Bees Project is helping farmers build bee fences around their property. The end result is safer crops, safer farmers, and safer elephants.

10. And they can use mirrors.

Image from Brian Snelson/Flickr.

The mirror test is a classic experiment to see if an animal is self-aware. Most animals don't understand that a mirror is a reflection of themselves. This is why your cat sometimes freaks out when it sees its own reflection: It thinks it's another cat. But some animals, including humans, great apes, dolphins, and — yes — elephants can recognize that the handsome hunk in the mirror is their own reflection.

11. Elephants can hear through their feet.

Image from Michael Pereckas/Flickr.

Elephants can make a bunch of different sounds, including noises so deep that human ears can't hear them. But elephants can also communicate by ground stomps, which send vibrations through the ground. Other elephants then pick up these vibrations through pressure-sensitive nerves in their feet.

12. Elephants can be right-tusked or left-tusked.

Image from Unsplash/Pixabay.

Elephant tusks are modified incisors — essentially giant buck teeth — and can be used as weapons, shovels, and ornaments. And just like humans are right-handed or left-handed, elephants develop a certain preference for using one tusk or the other.

13. But those tusks can be a huge liability.


Image from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Mountain-Prairie/Flickr.

There may have once been as many as 5 million African elephants, but today there are just under half a million. One of the big drivers of this population decline has been poaching — people shooting and killing elephants just for their ivory.

Though many nations have now outlawed ivory sales, poaching is still estimated to kill 30,000-50,000 elephants a year.

14. In fact, poaching might actually be pushing elephants to evolve not to have tusks altogether.

Image from Yathin S Krishnappa/Wikimedia Commons.

Because poachers are targeting and killing elephants with big, impressive tusks, this may actually end up pushing future elephant generations to have smaller tusks or no tusks at all.

Elephants without tusks is crazy, and the fact that it's even a possibility is even crazier! How about we just not kill them at all? Would that be so hard?

2016 is supposed to be the Chinese Year of the Monkey. Instead, WildAid, a conservation nonprofit, is suggesting we wish people a happy Year of the Elephant.

Maybe if we can get everyone on board, we can help stamp out the ivory trade once and for all. A bunch of celebrities have already signed on to this idea including Lupita Nyong'o, Yao Ming, and Jackie Chan – Jackie Chan!


Don't disappoint Jackie Chan. Image from Lee M. McCaskill/U.S. Navy/Wikimedia Commons.

Watch WildAid's surprisingly catchy video below and wish people a Xiàng Nián Kuài Lè — Happy Year of the Elephant!

True
Frito-Lay

Did you know one in five families are unable to provide everyday essentials and food for their children? This summer was also the hungriest on record with one in four children not knowing where their next meal will come from – an increase from one in seven children prior to the pandemic. The effects of COVID-19 continue to be felt around the country and many people struggle to secure basic needs. Unemployment is at an all-time high and an alarming number of families face food insecurity, not only from the increased financial burdens but also because many students and families rely on schools for school meal programs and other daily essentials.

This school year is unlike any other. Frito-Lay knew the critical need to ensure children have enough food and resources to succeed. The company quickly pivoted to expand its partnership with Feed the Children, a leading nonprofit focused on alleviating childhood hunger, to create the "Building the Future Together" program to provide shelf-stable food to supplement more than a quarter-million meals and distribute 500,000 pantry staples, school supplies, snacks, books, hand sanitizer, and personal care items to schools in underserved communities.

Keep Reading Show less
via Tom Ward / Instagram

Artist Tom Ward has used his incredible illustration techniques to give us some new perspective on modern life through popular Disney characters. "Disney characters are so iconic that I thought transporting them to our modern world could help us see it through new eyes," he told The Metro.

Tom says he wanted to bring to life "the times we live in and communicate topical issues in a relatable way."

In Ward's "Alt Disney" series, Prince Charming and Pinocchio have fallen victim to smart phone addiction. Ariel is living in a polluted ocean, and Simba and Baloo have been abused by humans.

Keep Reading Show less
True
Back Market

Between the new normal that is working from home and e-learning for students of all ages, having functional electronic devices is extremely important. But that doesn't mean needing to run out and buy the latest and greatest model. In fact, this cycle of constantly upgrading our devices to keep up with the newest technology is an incredibly dangerous habit.

The amount of e-waste we produce each year is growing at an increasing rate, and the improper treatment and disposal of this waste is harmful to both human health and the planet.

So what's the solution? While no one expects you to stop purchasing new phones, laptops, and other devices, what you can do is consider where you're purchasing them from and how often in order to help improve the planet for future generations.

Keep Reading Show less

With many schools going virtual, many daycare facilities being closed or limited, and millions of parents working from home during the pandemic, the balance working moms have always struggled to achieve has become even more challenging in 2020. Though there are more women in the workforce than ever, women still take on the lion's share of household and childcare duties. Moms also tend to bear the mental load of keeping track of all the little details that keep family life running smoothly, from noticing when kids are outgrowing their clothing to keeping track of doctor and dentist appointments to organizing kids' extracurricular activities.

It's a lot. And it's a lot more now that we're also dealing with the daily existential dread of a global pandemic, social unrest, political upheaval, and increasingly intense natural disasters.

That's why scientist Gretchen Goldman's refreshingly honest photo showing where and how she conducted a CNN interview is resonating with so many.

Keep Reading Show less

Schools often have to walk a fine line when it comes to parental complaints. Diverse backgrounds, beliefs, and preferences for what kids see and hear will always mean that schools can't please everyone all the time, so educators have to discern what's best for the whole, broad spectrum of kids in their care.

Sometimes, what's best is hard to discern. Sometimes it's absolutely not.

Such was the case this week when a parent at a St. Louis elementary school complained in a Facebook group about a book that was read to her 7-year-old. The parent wrote:

"Anyone else check out the read a loud book on Canvas for 2nd grade today? Ron's Big Mission was the book that was read out loud to my 7 year old. I caught this after she watched it bc I was working with my 3rd grader. I have called my daughters school. Parents, we have to preview what we are letting the kids see on there."

Keep Reading Show less