World Elephant Day

96 elephants are killed every day in Africa. You can stop it.

This World Elephant Day, August 12, people around the globe are uniting to protect and celebrate elephants. They need our help. Increasing demand for ivory is driving African forest elephants to extinction. Show your support for these amazing animals and "Go Grey."

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96 Facts About Elephants

Elephants are the largest land mammals in the world.

Elephants have the largest brains of any land mammal.

Elephants are herbivores—they eat plants, not meat.

There are three types of elephant today: Asian elephants, African forest elephants and African savannah elephants.

Once thought to be the same species, forest elephants and savannah elephants are distinct, recent genetic research suggests.

Male African forest elephants rarely stand over 8 feet tall, whereas savannah elephants usually measure 10 to 13 feet.

Forest elephants have straighter, slimmer, harder tusks than savannah elephants, a help in navigating dense vegetation.

All African elephants have tusks. Among Asian elephants, only the males have them.

Tusks are an elephant's incisor teeth. They are used for defense, digging and lifting.

African forest elephants move with the change in seasons, going from swamp in the dry season to lowland rainforest in the wet.

African forest elephants can walk across large national parks in as little as three days.

The home range of a forest elephant can be more than 772 square miles, bigger than many of the national parks in central Africa.

Forest elephants' range is becoming increasingly restricted and fragmented as the local human population grows.

African forest elephants know roads are dangerous. They'll go 14 times faster than normal to cross a road they consider risky.

In a forest elephant study by WCS and Save the Elephants a few years ago, only one of the 28 elephants tracked actually crossed a road outside a protected area.

African forest elephants are still shrouded in mystery—there are significant gaps in our scientific understanding of them.

Forest elephants' requirement for mineral salts attracts them to mineral-rich forest clearings known as bais (pronounced: "buys").

At bais, forest elephants dig in the soil or extract minerals from the beds of rivers and streams, kneeling down to get as deep as possible with their trunks. They'll even dive underwater.

Elephants play a crucial ecological role in their habitats, including digging pools of water that many other animals depend on.

The ecological role of elephants also includes opening forest trails, which other species use.

Elephants disperse seeds over many miles, making way for new life to grow.

Some tree species depend on elephants. They can only reproduce after elephants disperse their seeds.

In central Africa, the tropical forests elephants help maintain through seed dispersal are a globally important sink for carbon dioxide, helping to prevent climate change.

When acquainted groups of elephants reunite, they rumble and trumpet, click their tusks together, entwine their trunks, and flap their ears with enthusiasm.

Elephants mourn their dead, staying by the bodies of slain herd members for hours or even days.

Elephants also pay homage to the bones of their dead by gently touching the skulls and tusks with their trunks and feet.

Elephants express grief and compassion.

Elephants display self-awareness and altruism.

Sometimes elephants "hug." They wrap their trunks together as a way of greeting and showing affection.

Elephants can recognize themselves in a mirror.

Elephants can recognize each other over time, even as their appearances change with age.

Elephants have ceremonies to greet a friend that has been away for some time.

A herd of elephants depends on its matriarch. She has a powerful memory that leads her herd to food and water in times of drought.

During Tanzania's 1993 drought, elephant matriarchs that endured a similar event decades earlier knew where to lead their families for food and water.

An elephant's trunk is an extension of its nose with nostrils at the tip.

An elephant's trunk has a finger-like extension on the end, which is used like a hand to pick up small objects.

Elephants use their trunks for greetings: a lower-ranking animal will insert its trunk tip into the other's mouth.

When elephants swim, they can breath by raising their trunks above the water like the end of a snorkel.

Elephants have poor eyesight but an amazing sense of smell.

Elephants wave their trunks up in the air and from side to side to improve their sense of smell.

An elephant can use its trunk to sense the size, shape and temperature of an object.

An elephant can suck two gallons of water into its trunk at one time.

To drink water, an elephant sucks the water part of the way up its trunk and then pours it into its mouth.

Elephants have large, thin ears made up of a complex network of blood vessels that regulate temperature.

On hot days, elephants can be seen flapping their ears in the shade, which helps them cool down.

As protection from the sun and insect bites, an elephant may soak its back with water or roll in the mud.

Elephants' skin can be an inch thick in spots, but it's also sensitive to the touch.

Elephant feet are covered in a soft padding that lets them walk almost silently.

The soft padding on elephants' feet helps them uphold their weight and prevents them from slipping.

Elephants have sensitive feet. They can pick up ground vibrations, including the call of another elephant, from up to 10 miles away.

Elephant molars can weigh five pounds.

African forest elephants travel in groups of two to eight—often a mother and her offspring or a few mothers and their offspring.

Female elephants carry their babies an average of almost two years (22 months) before they give birth, longest of any land mammal.

At birth, an elephant calf can weigh more than 200 lbs.

The bond between a mother elephant and her calf is tight—mothers will do anything for their young.

Very young calves stay close to mom, rarely straying further than 15 feet or so away.

A mother forest elephant teaches her calf a great deal in the first few years, including how to select food and how to use one's trunk to eat and drink.

Even with mom's help, calves are clumsy with their trunks at first.

Just as a human baby sucks its thumb, an elephant calf may suck its trunk for comfort.

Often, a newborn elephant has more than its mother looking out for it. If a predator approaches, adults in the herd will circle the baby for protection.

If a baby elephant complains, the entire family will rumble and go over to touch and caress it.

Elephants use their trunks to lift newborn elephants to their feet.

It takes roughly 13 years, on average, before a young elephant is ready to be independent.

Once they're grown, male elephants tend to be solitary.

Elephants are very vocal, communicating through low frequency sounds. Some so low, humans can't hear them.

Elephants can hear these sounds: they are capable of hearing sound waves well below what humans can hear.

Elephants can eat hundreds of pounds of food in a day.

To gather the food they need, elephants will spend roughly 16 hours of their day eating.

African elephants can live 60 to 70 years in the wild.

Poached since prehistoric times, revered in religion and mythology, elephants have a complex relationship with humans.

Sixty-five percent of the African forest elephant population has disappeared since 2002.

Habitat loss is a huge threat to the survival of elephants.

Poaching for the illegal global ivory trade is also a big threat.

Today, most elephants are killed by organized crime syndicates—not by villagers trying to make a living.

Funds from the sale of illegal ivory have been used to fuel a range of illicit activities, including terrorism, extremist rebel movements and high-level government corruption.

The largest population of African forest elephants, in Minkebe National Park, Gabon, was recently targeted by poachers. A population of 15,000 elephants in 2005 has been reduced to less than 5,000 today.

In 2012, rebels in Democratic Republic of Congo's Okapi Wildlife Reserve killed two rangers and six civilians and kidnapped 50 others to protect their lucrative illegal gold mines and elephant poaching operations there.

The largest population of elephants in east Africa, in the Selous Game Reserve, Tanzania, was reduced by poachers from an estimated 70,000 in 2008 to 13,000 today.

The largest population of elephants left in eastern Africa is in the Rungwa-Ruaha Landscape of central Tanzania.

As poachers target the older matriarchs for their large tusks, a generation of young, orphaned African elephants is growing up without guidance.

When rebels took over the Central African Republic, conservationists intervened to protect the elephants of Dzangha Bai, and most of the elephants have remained safe as a result.

The United States is one of the largest consumers of illegal ivory in the world.

The U.S. and Chinese governments recently conducted ivory crushes, each destroying tons of tusks and ornaments that had been confiscated.

Burning or crushing ivory sends the message to poachers, traffickers, and consumers that nations are committed to saving elephants.

A trained sniffer dog can check hundreds of shipping containers a day for illegal ivory.

Thanks to the collaborative effort of many groups, both public and private, elephant numbers in the Republic of Congo's Nouabale-Ndoki National Park have held steady at 2,400 since 2006.

In Tanzania's Tarangire National Park, elephants have rebounded since the poaching crisis of the 1980s, growing in number by about 7 percent a year.

Tourists visiting parks to view elephants are vital to the economies of eastern and southern Africa.

Elephants can be hard for farmers to live with, but chilies and bees can both help. Elephants hate them.

In 2012, 35,000 African elephants were killed—96 a day.

The 96 Elephants campaign was formed to unite people behind these amazing mammals—to stop the sale of ivory and end the senseless slaughter.

Among the supporters, more than 100 zoos and aquariums have joined the 96 Elephants campaign.

There is no practical way to age ivory, no way to distinguish old from new, which is why ending all sales makes sense.

The state governments of New York and New Jersey both recently passed laws banning the sale of ivory and rhino horn.

In celebration of World Elephant Day, tens of thousands are supporting elephants by sending messages to their elected officials.

We are discovering new, amazing things about elephants all the time.

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