It’s heating up at sanctuary as the dry season creeps in and some of you at home may be experiencing some warmer temperatures as well. For today’s EleFACT, we want to take a look at how abnormally warm temperatures can affect elephants around the world.
The change of seasons combined with the rising temperatures of environments can increase an elephant’s sensitivity to heat. Elephants’ day-to-day thermoregulation is interesting because their daytime body temperatures can later be balanced by the cooler nighttime conditions. However, a study out of Myanmar found that elephants generally thrive in temperatures closer to 75 degrees Fahrenheit (24 degrees Celsius), but that can vary. As the climate continues to get warmer around the world, elephants may find themselves more at risk as a species in the wild. The same study found that the risk of death in Asian elephant calves under the age of five can double on hot days, compared to the previously mentioned optimum temperature. Because elephants cannot sweat, they depend pon vasodilation, or the widening of blood vessels. Flapping their ears, taking a dip in cool water, or splashing and covering themselves in mud can assist in cooling them down, but heat stroke can still occur. The study found that heat stroke is a leading cause of death among Asian elephants in Myanmar. Experts fear that without intervention, the 0.1% to 3% temperature increase that the country is expected to experience in the upcoming decades could be severely detrimental to elephants as a species.
Habitat loss can go hand-in-hand with rising temperatures; as environments are being damaged and harmed by climate change, elephants experience fewer and fewer places to reside. With loss of habitat comes loss of food, water, and other resources that are necessary for elephant survival and travel patterns.
In the animal kingdom and across our planet, all things are connected. Small choices that we can make as individuals can have a great impact. Although climate change is a problem that is bigger than any of us as one, it’s important to be aware of the decisions that we make on a daily basis that can help protect our environment – and the environments of elephants and other animals around our world.
Photo of Lady