The centre is also a mine of other absorbing information. Like the fact that an elephant’s heart weighs up to 28kg and beats at only 30 beats per minute, compared to the average human’s, which is more than double that at around 70 beats per minute. Given the distances that blood has to travel through the elephant’s massive body, blood vessels can be a whopping 3m long and the elephant needs to maintain a fairly high blood pressure in order to prevent them from collapsing in on themselves. The ellie’s massive ears combine with blood circulation to create a nifty air conditioning system too; as he fans his ears, they circulate and cool the blood, bringing his body temperature down by 8%.
That miracle of control, the trunk, contains 40 000 to 100 000 muscles. This allows the elephant both to push over enormous trees and to pick up a single peanut, depending on his mood – except, of course, when he’s still a youngster. Until he’s about a year old, he can’t even control that floppy thing well enough to slurp up water and swoosh it into his mouth. It’s all he can do to hold it out of the way as he tries to lap up water with his tongue, just as a dog or cat might do.
Next time you’re at Letaba, pay a visit and come face to face with a host of intriguing facts about these amazing giants.
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