The African elephant’s wrinkly and cracked skin is one of its most distinctive features from the elephant anatomy. Have you ever wondered why these large creatures have such wrinkly skin even from a young age? Take a look at some elephant skin facts.
The skin of an elephant
The first thing you have probably noticed when you have seen a picture of elephants is their skin. Their natural skin color is a dark grey, but they can sometimes appear to be the color of dirt. The reason behind this color is because elephants like to take mud baths, and the color of the soil stays on them.
The thickness of an elephant’s skin ranges on throughout their body. Their skin in certain areas can be as thick as 1.5 inches. Even though this large mammal has thick skin, the elephant anatomy of their skin makes it sensitive to touch. Elephants can feel the smallest insects and change the climate.
African elephant vs. Asian elephant skin
Even though both the Asian and African elephants appear the same, they do differ in their skin. African elephants have much more wrinkles compared to Asian elephants. However, Asian elephants have pink and light brown spots because they might lack pigmentation.
Why do elephants have wrinkles and cracks on their skin?
One of the important elephant skin facts is that an elephant’s wrinkles are not only for show. Those massive wrinkles and cracks in their skin serve an essential role in keeping this large mammal cool. African elephants have to endure the high temperatures of the African savannah and forests.
Unlike most mammals, elephants do not sweat. They control their body temperature through evaporative cooling - this process requires the skin to be wet. The water when elephants bathe gets stored in the cracks that help them stay cool. Research shows that elephants can hold up five to 10 times in their skin more water than a smooth surface.
In addition to absorbing water, an elephant’s skin can also hold dust and mud. When an elephant takes a mud bath or sprays dirt on itself, it is protecting its surface from the sun and dangerous parasites.
The threats of elephants
As you might already know, these large mammals are at risk of being lost. Even though there is an international ivory trade ban, elephants are still being killed for their tusks. African elephants are primarily poached for their tusks and sometimes skin.
If poaching continues, it can be possible to lose more elephants than they can reproduce. Even though a majority of Asian elephants are tuskless, they are still poached for their tusks, skin and meat. These kinds of elephants are classified as endangered.
How to save elephants
You can help save elephants by supporting the ban of the ivory trade and donating to promote the conservation of elephants. At For Elephants, we use science to help determine the best conservation practices for elephants in the wild and zoos. Please contribute to our research by purchasing a shirt or making a donation.