The dry season has arrived at the sanctuary and temperatures are fluctuating, which some of you may also be experiencing at home. For today’s EleFACT, we want to talk a bit more about what happens to elephants in the wild as seasons change.
Although we have Asian elephants here at Elephant Sanctuary Brazil, many studies have been done about how hotter temperatures affect African bush elephants, or Loxodonta africana, particularly because they endure some of the hotter temperatures of all elephant species. African bush elephants are extremely beneficial to their surrounding environment; they help maintain the savanna, grassland, and forest habitats across central and southern Africa. This is partially due to their ability to experience homeothermy, a type of thermoregulation that maintains a fairly stable internal body temperature regardless of the outside heat (or cold) levels. Heat load is the indicator of the thermal stress that any animal may experience in natural environments, and positive heat load occurs when the environmental temperatures exceed the elephant’s internal body temperatures. These regions get quite hot, but the elephants are still able to maintain homeothermy under positive heat load, even with the large fluctuations between the warmer daytime and cool nighttime temperatures.
Elephants have an internal rhythm to help manage their core body temperature despite those changes in the external environment. When the animals experience a positive heat load, the ability to practice homeothermy comes in handy. However, scientists are finding that we may not be able to pinpoint just how strong this internal rhythm is. Like we mentioned last week, climate change has temperatures becoming more extreme across the board. As daytime temperatures rise, nighttime temperatures seem to drop more and more. The question lies in whether or not elephants can adapt and keep up with the changes.
Photo of Lady