Over the course of my first week with the Surin Project, I’ve realized that elephants have many features that I never noticed when viewing them from afar. Hair here, wrinkles there… Their bodies have a ridiculous amount of surface area, so it’s no wonder that parts of their body are quite mysterious when viewed out of context. Take a look at the photos below and see if you can identify each body part correctly. Answers are at the bottom, and those scoring a Perfect 12 win a piece of elephant dung paper. That’s right folks, poopy paper. I am not kidding.
Photo A – Foot
This was an easy starter. Fun fact: Asian elephants have five toenails in the front and four in the back whereas African elephants have four toenails in the front and three in the back.
Photo B – Tushes
While (most) male Asian elephants have thick tusks, females have smaller tushes that rarely grow in excess of 4”.
Photo C – Ear hole
I may be the only idiot who didn’t realize that elephants’ ear holes are in front of their floppy ears, not behind. I’m attaining so much knowledge.
Photo D – Lower lip
If you immediately thought that this sagging thing was associated with the reproductive organs, then you need to get your head out of the gutter. Before you leave, however, you will find most other people who have viewed this post there right along with you.
Photo E – Cheek
Some Asian elephants have these spectacular speckled patterns across various parts of their bodies. The presence of such spots are based on genetics, much like how some people are more likely to have freckles.
Photo F – Butt/Base of tail
I like big butts and I cannot lie.
Photo G – Earlobe
Photo H – Tail
How funny looking is this thing? The thick hairs are often cut off and made into bracelets for humans. You can imagine that this makes their natural “fly swatter” a bit less effective.
Photo I – Lower lip (again)
Still assumed something dirty? Come on now. We’re all adults here (unfortunately).
Photo J – Top of head
Can you believe how furry they can be?! Scientists have found that the thick, sparse hairs help to disperse heat from the elephant’s head.
Photo K – Nipple
Ok, your mind can go back to the gutter now. This is an elephant’s nipple. Elephant calves can nurse for up to four years, although they can be weaned by the age of two. A mahout encouraged me to feel it, and I felt rude not to oblige. I whispered to the elephant, “I’m sorry. I’m only feeling you up for research purposes.” I hope she understood.
Photo L – Upper ear
Sadly, many captive Asian elephants have holes in their ears that show the scars of their lives past. Some holes were used as a “brand” to identify groups of elephants at a trekking camp while others were created so that the elephant could wear “earrings” when street begging. Thankfully for Sai Fa, the elephant pictured here, her holes are now just a sign of where she came from, but not where she is going.
Ok, how many did you get right? Remember, precious poo paper is up for grabs here. Winner winner chicken dinner!