African Elephants and Why They Have Cracked Skin

Amelia Wignall, Journalist, Editing Board Member

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African Elephants are endangered animals. They live in Southern parts of Africa and eat mainly roots and grasses. An adult can eat up to 300 pounds of food in a day. African Elephants are the largest land animals on Earth. They can weigh up to 6.6 tons (13,200 lbs.) and can be 10 feet tall at the shoulder. Adult African Elephants have 2 tusks that act as teeth. Calves are born with tusks, but their tusks fall out and are replaced with larger permanent tusks. Something that is unique to Elephants is their trunks. “Unlike the primate hand, the elephant’s grasping organ is also its nose. Elephants use their trunks not only to reach food but also to sniff and touch it. With their unparalleled sense of smell, the animals know exactly what they are going for. Vision is secondary.” -Frans de Waal, Dutch Primatologist/Ethologist. Female African Elephants live and travel in herds with their calves and the Males live alone. An African Elephant pregnancy lasts 22 months and the calves are born weighing about 200 pounds. African Elephants can also do something most animals can’t. They can tell each other apart. Communication is very important to Elephants. African Elephants can communicate by shaking their ears. They can also make sounds ranging 10 octaves. An elephant can hear another elephant’s call from up to 4 kilometers. African Elephants are very intelligent animals. 

Anyone who has seen an African Elephants will see that they have very cracked, wrinkly skin. Most people who have studied these mammals did not read anything into it. They just assumed that they just have wrinkly skin. But really, the African Elephant’s cracked skin is its way of cooling off. African Elephants have adapted so they can more easily cool off in the heat. African Elephants have been known to love playing in the water and covering themselves in mud. Because African Elephants cannot sweat, playing in the mud and spraying themselves with water helps their skin cool off. The cracks in their skin create small crevices for the water and mud to sit on so they can cool off. When an African Elephant is born, they don’t have cracks in their skin. So how do their cracks form? At first, scientists thought that these cracks were formed when an elephant’s skin shrinks, but studies show that an elephant’s skin grows and becomes thicker over time. This causes stress on the skin and makes it crack.  

African Elephants are very unique animals and they need to be protected.