Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Zoosday Tuesday

***The opinions shared on this blog are mine alone and are not endorsed by the Kansas City Zoo

The Sumatran Elephant

I could go on and on about elephants. They are some of the worlds most fascinating and intelligent creatures. We don't have any Sumatran Elephants at the KC Zoo, we only have African Elephants.

Sumatran Elephants are the smallest of the Asiatic Elephant subspecies. They weigh from 6,000 - 10,000lbs. In contrast, African Elephants weigh 9,000-15,000lbs.

I hate to be a downer on these posts, but unfortunately these guys are highly endangered too, only around 2000 left in the wild. Just like the Orangutans and Tigers, they are threatened by deforestation. But elephants are eliminated mainly because they're considered so destructive by humans. WWF has a great article about using domesticated elephants to drive wild elephants away from populated areas, keeping everyone happy. http://www.worldwildlife.org/species/finder/sumatranelephant/sumatranelephant.html.

Female elephants are very social. They live in family groups lead by a matriarch who keeps the herd moving from place to place to find food. Elephants are strictly herbivores, eating leaves, fruit, bamboo, ginger. But they eat about 200lbs per day. That's a lot of bananas. The matriarch knows where the fruit is going to be ripe, based on season, sunlight, elevation, etc. and leads the family to the best food.

Elephant's have the most amazing trunks. They are so articulate that they can pick up a single blade of grass but so strong they can lift a heavy log. At the Kansas City Zoo, our elephants have learned to paint. This is a form of enrichment that stimulates their minds and allows them to exercise their trunks.

If you have any questions about elephants, just ask.


  1. Thanks for another fascinating post. Is it true that bull elephants are quite sociable until they reach puberty for want of another word? I seem to remember reading this somewhere.

    I was given some stationary made of elephant dung. Quite thick, the paper that is, it was lovely to write on - I regretted licking the envelopw when I thought of the source though.

  2. wowee that IS a lot of bananas!! I've always loved them and use to collect figurines. THX for this post!

  3. Great question Tracy. Male elephants live with the matriarchal herd until they reach puberty (about 13 years) and then they are driven away by the matriarch and other females. (This prevents them getting frisky with their female relatives.)

    They often form bachelor groups with other male elephants until they reach an age where they can compete for females (this depends on how much competition there is. In areas where a lot of the older bulls have been killed for their tusks, younger guys might get a chance.) The younger males learn how to behave from older mentors.

    However, when the males come into musthe, all bets are off. They turn into 10,000-15,000 lbs of raging testosterone. They can be very dangerous at this time and will try to mate with anything, including buses and SUVs.

    Elephant dung paper would be quite nice I'm sure. I've never seen any, but because of the high cellulous content of their diet, and their relatively inefficient digestive system, their dung is made up largly of plant matter.

    At the zoo the keepers collect 700lbs of dung from our seven female elephants every day. They compost it with all of the other compostible waste products to make Zoo Poo. It's a highly sought after fertilizer, which people line up to purchase.

    So, anyway, like I said, I just scratched the surface of elephants, but thanks for the great question Tracy.

    I love elephant figurines too Christina!

  4. I always found elephants interesting animals! Great post. :)

  5. I didn't know there was a Sumatran variety.

  6. Oh I remember watching a BBC nature documentary about these poor elephants in Kenya - for centuries (millenia even?) they followed this tried and tested route until the humans came and settled on this route and no guesses who got forced to go elsewhere. Poor creatures. They are beautiful and intelligent and matriarchal. They're just lovely!

    Poor Sumatran Elephants. Let's hope it's not too late for them! :-(

    take care

  7. It's fascinating that they can be so delicate and careful with the single blade of grass but then so strong to lift a log. How cool is that?! Animals are the most amazing creatures and elephants just went up in my book.

    We have a new exhibit at the Houston Zoo and we too have the African Elephants, they are wonderful creatures and I could watch them for hours.

    I hate to hear when something is endangered, it's really sad. I wish more people could help, could donate, just $1 even to help support a cause worth fighting for!