Word of the Day: Heterothermy


Toward the end of last week, we had a cold snap. It doesn’t get cold here frequently – and just to be clear, when we say cold, we mean 60*F (16*C).

As usual, when it is chilly here, the humans mind it significantly more than the elephants. It’s been hot here recently, and the sun has been intense. We all – four-legged & two-legged – appreciated the break from the heat, but it was still a significant change in temperature.

The elephants’ behaviors shift with the weather. In the cooler temperatures, they do what comes naturally to them, which is to seek shelter in the thicker trees at night when the sun goes down and the temperatures fall.

Elephants store their heat internally using a process called heterothermy. They build up excess heat during the day and slowly release it as their bodies cool. Due to the recent temperatures, the elephants had plenty of heat to release from their bodies, and none of them looked cold at any point.

When Kat went to feed dinner, she saw Mara with her ears back, and it looked like she wasn’t necessarily enjoying the chilly breeze. Kat knows the property well, so she led Mara (and Rana) to a little cove area that blocks the wind and fed them there, by Hidden Pasture.

Maia went across the creek in Yard 5. Since she began spending more time near Rana and Mara, Maia hadn’t been in that area. We aren’t sure if it’s a coincidence, and she just prefers that area when it’s cooler, or if she hadn’t wanted to be quite that far away from Rana & Mara.

Lady spent the cold snap in an area near a pequi tree in Yard 4.   Pequi is a type of local fruit that the macaws love to eat, but the elephants do not seem to enjoy it. The pasture that Lady was in is a sweet spot with nice grass and little trees.

Everybody found nice little nooks to spend time in while avoiding the cold.

Photo of Lady in dense trees.

August 29, 2020


  1. REPLY
    Bo says

    So interesting and another great lesson message.
    Thank you!

    Kat = elephant matriarch 🙂

  2. REPLY
    arie says

    It is so heartwarming to read about everything you do to make sure that the elephants are as comfortable as possible. ?❤️

  3. REPLY
    Wim says

    I would rename and say the Mother of the Elephants. Healing and feeding. Wonderful system they’ve developed to manage all temperatures. Makes us humans really look like a low class mammal.

  4. REPLY
    Julie says

    I agree with my fellow elephant lovers; Kat is our Mother of Elephants. It takes a village of elephant lovers to make this happen. That’s our role. Such a beautiful elephant community!

  5. REPLY
    JoAnn Merriman Eaton says

    I am choosing to believe Maia just wanted to be close to Rana and Mara! I appreciate the wonderful way you think of every little thing possible to make the girls comfortable and happy.

  6. REPLY
    Tammy says

    Interesting! Gotta snuggle together to conserve body heat what a better way to become even closer to each other ?????

  7. REPLY
    Sherry says

    I know what you mean when you say the elephants find their warm spot against the cool air. I have my warm spot too; under a

  8. REPLY
    Rosie P says

    Your empathy for these elephants is one of the reasons why I support ESB. Just a small thing to lead them to a sheltered spot but one that makes such a difference to their wellbeing and comfort.
    I did not know about heterothermy. This is another piece of interesting information. I thought I knew a lot about elephants before I found ESB but I soon realised that I knew very little.

  9. REPLY
    Shirley Taylor says

    I agree whole heartedly with what Rosie P says. I have looked at lots of groups of elephant sancturies and whether you have 4 elephants or 40 I think you would be the same with them all as you are with the ones we love right now.

    • REPLY
      Rosie P says

      Yes, Shirley, ESB really shines. They have given their hearts to this cause and it shows in the compassion and empathy and loving care they bestow on these wonderful beings. I am certain there are many of us who feel this way about ESB and the amazing human caregivers.

  10. REPLY
    SALLIE says


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