In honor of World Elephant Day, we present you with 12 little known facts about one of our favorite creatures…in GIFs, of course.
1. Elephants know every member of their herd and are able to recognize up to 30 companions by sight or smell.
2. They can remember and distinguish particular cues that signal danger and can recall locations long after their last visit.
3. An elephant’s memory is not limited to its herd, nor is it limited to its species. In one instance, two circus elephants that performed together rejoiced when crossing paths 23 years later. Elephants have also recognized humans that they once bonded with after decades apart. 4.
4. The elephant boasts the largest brain of any land mammal as well as an impressive encephalization quotient (the size of the animal’s brain relative to its body size). The elephant’s EQ is nearly as high as a chimpanzee’s.
5. The elephant brain is remarkably similar to the human brain, with as many neurons and synapses, as well as a highly developed hippocampus and cerebral cortex.
6. Elephants are one of the few non-human animals to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.
7. Elephants are creative problem solvers.
8. Don’t try to outsmart an elephant! They have an understanding of basic arithmetic and can even keep track of relative quantities.
9. Elephants communicate using everything from body signals to infrared rumbles that can be heard from kilometers away. Their understanding of syntax suggests that they have their own language and grammar.
10. Elephants can recognize 12 distinct tones of music and recreate melodies.
11. Elephants are the only non-human animals to mourn their dead, performing burial rituals and returning to visit graves.
12. Elephants are one of the few species who can recognize themselves in the mirror.
Given what we now know about elephants, and what they continue to teach us about animal intelligence, it is more important than ever to make sure that these magnificent creatures do not vanish.
Despite an increase in awareness and advocacy across the globe, elephants are still a highly vulnerable population. Consider adopting an elephant or donating to one of many organizations that work to conserve elephant populations! <3
Today is the International Day of Peace (“Peace Day”). Established in 1981 by a unanimous United Nations resolution, the General Assembly has declared this as a day devoted to “commemorating and strengthening the ideals of peace both within and among all nations and peoples.”
When Homer’s Iliad was first written down in the 8th century BCE, the story of the Trojan war was already an old one. From existing oral tradition, audiences knew the tales of the long siege, the epic duels outside the city walls, and the cunning trick that finally won the war.
In the end, the magnificent city was burned to the ground, never to rise again.
But had it ever existed? By the time the field of archaeology began to take shape in the 19th century, many were skeptical, considering the epic to be pure fiction, a founding myth imagining a bygone heroic era. But some scholars believed that behind the superhuman feats and divine miracles there must have been a grain of historical truth – a war that was really fought, and a place where it happened.
Frank Calvert was one such believer. He had spent his youth traveling and learning about ancient civilizations before accompanying his brother Frederick on a diplomatic mission to the northwest Anatolian region of Çanakkale. It was here that Homer described the Greek encampment at the mouth of the Scamander river. And it was here that fate brought Frank into contact with a journalist and geologist named Charles Maclaren. Locals and travelers had long speculated that Troy might’ve stood on one of the surrounding hilltops. But Maclaren had been one of the first to publish a detailed topographical study of the area. He believed he had found the site – a 32-meter mound known by the name Hisarlık, derived from the Turkish word for “fortress.” Frank Calvert began to survey the site, but lacked the funds for a full excavation. This was where the wealthy German businessman and amateur archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann came in. At Calvert’s invitation, Schliemann visited the grounds in 1868, and decided to excavate. Eager to find the ancient city, Schliemann tore massive trenches all the way to the base of the hill. There, he uncovered a hoard of precious artifacts, jewelry, and metalwork, including two diadems and a copper shield. Schliemann took full credit for the discovery, announcing that he had found Troy and the treasure of its king Priam. But the real treasure was elsewhere.
When later archaeologists studied the site, they realized that the mound consisted of no less than nine cities, each built atop the ruins of the last. The layer Schliemann had uncovered dated back to the Mycenaean Age, more than 1,000 years too early for Homer. But inside the mound was indeed evidence for a city that had thrived during the Bronze Age, with charred stone, broken arrowheads, and damaged human skeletons suggesting a violent end. It was Troy VII, contained in the middle layers and now ravaged for a second time by Schliemann’s careless excavation. The settlement, spanning some 200,000 square meters and home to as many as 10,000 people, thrived until around 1180 BCE. Its position at the southern entrance of the Dardanelles strait would’ve made a formidable strategic location for both defense and trade. Most importantly, there are the remains of a massive fortification wall – perhaps the very same one from which Priam and Hector once watched the Greeks approach.
Of course, it’s difficult to be certain that these ruins are the true remains of ancient Troy, and scholars still dispute whether the Trojan War as described by Homer ever happened. Yet the evidence is strong enough that UNESCO has labelled Hisarlık the archeological site of Troy. Regardless of its identity, thanks to persistence, a bit of faith, and a lot of research, archaeologists are bringing the long-buried secrets of an ancient, lost city to light.
“I was a conductor on the Underground Railroad, and I can say what many others cannot. I never ran my train off the track, and I never lost a passenger.”
Escaping slavery; risking everything to save her family; leading a military raid; championing the cause of women’s suffrage; these are just a handful of the accomplishments of Harriet Tubman, one of America’s most courageous heroes.
On August 28, 1963, American civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his infamous ‘I Have a Dream’ speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C., in which he states: “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”
Today, as we honor Dr. King, let us take a moment to reflect upon the contents of this very speech, the progress we’ve made since 1963, and the work we’ve yet to do to end racial discrimination across the globe. The full-length speech can be read here.
In the mid-16th century, Italians were captivated by a type of male singer whose incredible range contained notes previously thought impossible for adult men. However, this gift came at a high price. To prevent their voices from breaking, these singers had been castrated before puberty, halting the hormonal processes that would deepen their voices. Known as castrati, their light, angelic voices were renowned throughout Europe, until the cruel procedure that created them was outlawed in the 1800s.