Are elephants really “thick skinned”?
The expression of elephants being pachyderms is correct only in part. On vulnerable spots like the trunk embouchure, legs and back, skin can in fact be 2.5 to 3 cm thick, but behind the ears, by the eye, on the abdomen, chest and shoulders it is as thin as paper. People who touch an elephant´s skin for the first time often describe it as like an eraser.
Why do elephants need a thick skin?
Elephants need a thick skin to hold together their mass respectively their inner pressure. This can be compared with buying bread: If 1 kg of bread is bought, it is wrapped in tissue-paper. If 20 kg of bread are bought, a thick and strong paper bag is needed to hold together the bread parcel.
Can a veterinarian cut the skin open?
Because of the inner pressure it also is nearly impossible to help with a Caesarean section at an elephant´s birth. The entrails would flow out and could hardly be pushed back into the abdomen. What can be done is a perineal section between anus and vagina, but this operation is very risky as well and is used only in the most extreme case to save the elephant mother´s life. For example, the cut cannot be sewed up using threads, but has to be fixed with wire.
Is the skin sensitive?
The elephant´s skin is despite of its thickness a very sensititve system and has a rich nerve providing. An elephant notices every fly landing on him! Even an elephant is “ticklish” when an elephant keeper crouches it in the armpit.
Why are some elephants almost “white”?
The difference between African and Asian elephants can be seen in the skin structure as well. Asian elephants have a finer skin than their African relatives.
Especially Asian Elephants often do not have colour on their skin, most conspiciously on their ears and forehead. These “white” spots are the contrary of our freckles. In most cases, this “depigmentation” has a genetic reason. Young elephants mostly are wholly “grey”. The first white spots come with the age. Wholly white elephants (albinos) are rare and seen as holy.
However, the daily life of white temple elephants is not that great.
The maintenance of the elephants is expensive. If the money is missing, the suffering begins. Elephants are considered sacred in Burma and other Buddhist cultures.
All the more incomprehensible is that in Burma just these rare animals are kept tormenting. Most of them are mentally ill because they spend their lives on short chains.
Do elephants also have hair?
The elephant’s skin is full of hairs. This can be seen very well especially on young elephants. But also older animals often have their back full of thick hairs. The answer to the public´s question of what the hairs are for, our reply mostly is: “In order that dirt, sand and mud don´t fall of the back well and that we have to clean more”.
African elephants have less hairs than their Asian relatives. The thickest elephant hairs are located at the tip of the tail. Bracelets and rings are often made out of this hairs.
Do elephants sweat?
Because the elephant´s skin does not have perspiratory glands, the elephants have to cool themselves in another way.
They have great ears working like coolers. Behind the ears, under the fine skin, run thousands of very fine veins. When the elephants flutter with the ears, the draught cools the capillary vessel blood and thus the body. This has the same effect as when a dog hackles or when we, in great heat, hold our wrists in cold water. Fluttering with the ears is very efficient for elephants.
Elephants will often “bathe” in mud or dirt, and this helps them to cool off. They can’t sweat, so the evaporative cooling of the mud has the same function, allowing the heat from their bodies. sedimentology.uconn.edu/
What if elephants had sweat glands after all?
If the elephant would have perspiratory glands, his skin would mostly be bathed in perspiration because an elephant weighing about 2000 kgs has a skin surface of roughly 112000 cm². A rat weighing 300 grams has a body surface of 300 cm². This means that in comparison with his weight, an elephant only has 1/18 of a rat´s body surface. Smaller creatures can therefore give away their body heat better than elephants and perspire much less.
How are the skin and diet related?
Elephants take food containing less energy than smaller creatures or humans do for not feeling too hot all the time. This is a reason why elephants grow so tall with a vegetable diet. If they would eat meat, fat and sugar, they could not anymore equalize their body temperature independent of the air temperature and so could not survive anymore.
Elephant skin for Chinese “medicine”?
Until recently, only male Asian elephants were in danger of being poached for ivory, as the females do not have tusks. Now, the poachers are killing every animal they can find – including females and calves. After the elephants slowly succumb to poisoned arrows, the poachers skin their prey on the spot.
More than one hundred elephants are known have been poached in Myanmar for their skin since 2013; more than twenty have already been killed this year alone. Asian elephants are being poached for their skin, which is used for Chinese “medicine” and jewelry.
6 thoughts on “Elephant skin”
I recently visited the Udawalawe park in Sri Lanka. The place had lots of lush vegetation and the many elephants looked happy and healthy. However, on one photo I took, if a female and young calf, it appeared you could see the outline of ribs on the mother. Can anyone explain why this would be when the food source appeared to be plentiful. I can’t find anything on the internet and some friends have commented on my photo suggesting the elephant is too thin.
Hunger in the national park
It was found that practically all resettled elephants leave the protected zone again. A sign that many elephants are inadequately feeding. The productive land on which the vegetation flourishes is largely seized by people for settlements and agriculture. Often only poor country is protected as a national park. Elephants need large amounts of plant food. They can only be found on productive surfaces. The conflict with humans is programmed.
What to do? Locking the elephants into the national parks behind fences has fatal consequences in various areas: locked in the protected areas they are starving. They become prone to disease or even die from malnutrition. One such example is the territory of the Udawalawe national park in Sri Lanka, where one can observe skeletal elephants.
Original text in German:
In response to the photo above I would probably say that this is due to the lack of required vitamins or basic nutritional needs. There are plenty of plants such as grasses which are found to be too low in protein. As well as this, the plants that they are eating may be lacking due to the soil quality they are growing in. The leaves quality would greatly effect the amount of nutritional values found within them.
Elephants live in groups. According to this, all the elephants in this place must be lean and sick. Whether that is so, I do not know.
If only the mother and her baby are sick, I believe worms are the reason of poor physical condition.
Is Elephant skin leather?
I do not believe elephants can be tamed. Elephant skin as a book cover or smartphone cover is artificial.
Sadly, elephant skin is being sold as a remedy in China.