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Let’s adapt!

Hello everyone! Elephant Care Team Intern Paige here! In this blog post, I will be bringing you an insight into Zoo Atlanta’s African elephant herd and what makes each of our large friends unique! Every animal on the planet has adaptations that make them special and makes living in their environment easier. Whether that be the naked mole rats’ sensory hairs around their noses to move easily through the darkness of their underground world, a meerkat’s lightly colored fur to blend into the African savanna, or a giraffe’s long neck to reach the tops of the trees for food. Although Kelly, Msholo, and Tara are the same species, they all have adaptations that make them unique.

Some of the adaptations we see with the Zoo’s elephants have to do with where they were born. Kelly for instance, has seemingly endless eyelashes. A few measuring up to nine inches! She was born in Namibia, which has a very dry, arid, desert climate. Her long eyelashes are an adaptation to help her keep sand and debris out of her eyes. A trademark trait of African elephants are their massive ears. Take a look at Tara’s ears, for example. They are perfectly round and huge! They don’t only serve as a factor into her cuteness, but they serve as a temperature control system. An elephant’s ears hold many large blood vessels, so when it is really hot outside, you may see Tara moving her ears back and forth, like a fan. By doing this, it helps to send blood to the vessels and heat to dissipate, allowing Tara to cool down. Her fan-like ears definitely make the African heat and the Atlanta summers a bit more tolerable. When you take a look at Msholo, you probably notice many things: his size, his tusks, his trunk, oh and how handsome he is. Elephant trunks are the fusion of the nose and upper lip and contain 40,000 muscles! With his trunk, Msholo can pick grass, pick up and move large logs in the habitat, smell, investigate enrichment items, and just be an elephant. Tusks are also an important adaptation for being an elephant. They help strip bark off of trees, dig in the dirt, carry logs, and serve as a form of self-defense. Kelly and Msholo tend to enjoy using their tusks to take food items on the go.

These adaptations and more are what fascinates people, including myself, about elephants and other animals. To think that some of these animals adapted to ever-changing environments and that they are still around millions of years later is simply amazing. I encourage you to think about how other animals who call Zoo Atlanta home have adapted to their environments. What have they figured out for survival? Then, you can even think about how you adapt. How do you make life easier in your environment? For me, a cup of coffee in the morning is a start!

Paige G.
Elephant Care Team Intern

Connect With Your Wild Side #onlyzooatl