There’s no question that elephants are some pretty cute creatures, but did you know they’re also extremely intelligent? In Gorongosa National Park we look to Dominique Gonçalves, the manager of the Elephant Ecology Project, and Joyce Poole, an elephant researcher and founder of the nonprofit ElephantVoices, to further expand our knowledge and understanding of these exquisite mammals.
Wildlife conservation is something we’re passionate about, and we want to celebrate! There are over 800 elephants in Gorongosa National Park and through our initiatives, that number is growing. August 12th marks World Elephant Day, so we’ve gathered 5 photos taken in the Park displaying just how cute and clever they are. Read on to learn more about one of the areas you’re supporting when you drink Our Gorongosa coffee.
1. Even Elephants Like to Play Dress Up
It’s easy to assume the excitement of wearing mom’s floppy sun hat and shuffling around in adult-sized shoes is unique to human adolescence, but elephants aren’t much different in the way they play.
This image captured by ElephantVoices shows an adult female using her trunk to toss grass onto her back. This behavior occurs in the context of Lone and Object-Play. Object play can last anywhere from 10-20 minutes and is most common between young elephants. These loose movements can be initiated alone or in the presence of others. While dress-up may be a bit different for humans and calves, wearing a hat that doesn’t quite fit seems to be exciting for both species.
2. Sometimes You Just Need a Hug
Hugs make everything better!
Rest-head is a common behavior seen in the affiliative context, or when elephants attempt to build social bonds with others. This is commonly observed amongst family members. Elephants value relationships and experience happiness when seeing a loved relative after a long period of time, just like humans! This joyous reunion will often involve trumpeting, ear flapping, and rumbling in excitement.
3. You Don’t Need a Nose to Be Nosey
Does a public disruption pique your interest? It does for elephants too!
It’s been concluded that brain size directly correlates with the development of the cerebral cortex. This part of the brain is responsible for functions such as perception, memory, thought, decision making, and association. On-site elephant expert Dominique echoed the findings in relation to the park’s floppy-eared friends. She said, “Elephants are also completely extraordinary animals because of their social complexity, intelligence, (and) memory.”
With such an advanced intelligence level, it’s no shock elephants find creative and astute ways to use their trunks. Trunk manipulation is used to draw attention from others, signal awareness, or as a symbol of anticipation for something to come — like a spar that’s about to ensue.
So when intrigue spikes as you hear that individual fighting with the cashier over coupons, know that an elephant would be equally intrigued.
4. Those are Some Amazing Mamas
Female elephants remain in the maternal group for the entirety of their lives, while males ultimately leave around puberty at 14-15 years of age. They reproduce until they’re 50, waiting 2-4 years between each calf. Each pregnancy lasts 22 months, the longest of any mammal. That means if a mama carried 12 babies, it would result in 22 years of pregnancy!
5. Elephants Don’t Forget, but They Can Forgive
During the Civil war in Mozambique, inhabitants in Gorongosa National Park got caught in the crossfire. Over the last 20 years, dedicated wildlife rangers and communities in the region have worked together to rebuild the elephant population. Resulting in a three-fold increase since the end of the twentieth century.
Watch this clip from “Gorongosa Park- Rebirth of Paradise” to witness a matriarch as she remains calm, displaying her trust in human presence. This scene reflects one of many initiatives in the Park, and while elephants don’t forget, they can forgive.
While you may be waking up to a warm brew in your living room, your purchase allows our cute friends in Mozambique to call Gorongosa National Park their home. The human-elephant relationship continues to grow stronger and every positive interaction supports repopulation, research, and conservation efforts. Our goal is to have 250,000 large mammals in the Park by 2035 because we believe everyone deserves a safe and comfortable place to call home!