It’s EleFACT Friday, and we have some hairy ladies to talk about! We all know that Maia is our resident fuzzy head, but Guillermina has brought some fresh new hair-dos to our sanctuary family.
Elephants are considered to be hairless animals, but both African and Asian elephants are actually born with a layer of thick hair called “lanugo,” like human babies. The majority of this hair sheds off before birth and continues to fall off as the calf grows. Although this coat doesn’t provide any warmth, it allows for extra sensation, helping the animal determine how close an object is to the hair it touches.
As we’ve seen with Guillermina, some of the thickest hair on an elephant can exist on its tail and can reach a length of up to 100 centimeters, depending on the individual. You may have seen in photos we share that some of the elephants have hair around their eyes and nose. These help provide protection, keeping particles and germs from getting into their body through the trunk, ears, nose, or eyes – just like in humans. There are also very small sensory hairs that run up and down the trunks, which contribute to the trunk being about 10 times more sensitive than a human finger.
Research has also shown that hairs on elephants can serve as a cooling mechanism, drawing heat away from the body. It’s believed that their hair can assist in convective heat loss and thermoregulation by up to 23%, which is essential in African elephants, who lack sweat glands.
While the fuzzy heads of our sanctuary residents are charming and just too darn cute, it’s important to remember that some of the cutest anatomical aspects of creatures, great and small, serve a very important purpose to their survival.
Photo of Maia in all of her hairy headed glory