25 November 2010
No they were not wearing sunglasses but I really thought the African Elephants at Addo in South Africa were trying hard to be cool during the warm spell we had last week.
If you are their size it is difficult to hide from the sun and they do overheat. Their habit of flapping their ears to expose the blood in the ears to the air order to cool the blood is well known. It is something they do continually when feeding in hot weather. They do however love water and when it is hot they come down to drink several times a day. Something they do then is spray water and mud over their bodies to help the cooling process and they pay particular attention to their ears. It makes sense and the water and mud on the ears will promote the cooling they obtain from the ears. It was nice to see this happen on many occasions and they sprayed water on both the outside surface of the ear and the inside surface between the body and the ear. They also deliberately cover the rest of their bodies in mud and clay. This cools and also provides a layer on the skin which protects them from the sun and irritating insects.
Of course if you give an elephant half a chance most of them will end up in the water and get completely soaked. They were almost human in their playing in the water and in the picture above the elephants in the water seem to be trying to convince the one out of the water saying “come in, the water is great.” The youngsters have the most fun in the water while the larger elephants seem almost reluctant to enter the water. The reason for this is probably their greater bulk which is difficult to haul up the side of a slippery clay surfaced waterhole wall.
They were also so much into staying cool that they totally ignored the boiling photographer in the car (which is a good thing).