Elephants are among the most iconic creatures on Earth. National Elephant Appreciation Day, observed on Sept 22, celebrates these gentle giants that now need our help.

National Elephant Appreciation Day was first established in 1996. It has since been observed in the U.S. every year, with people all over the country taking the time to celebrate and appreciate these massive mammals.

On this day, people can celebrate by doing some elephant-themed arts and crafts or perhaps by visiting an elephant at the zoo. You can also celebrate by learning more about the troubles they continue to face and by spreading awareness.

While they were once widespread throughout Africa and Asia, elephant numbers have dramatically declined due to threats such as habitat destruction, human-wildlife conflict and poaching.

"African elephant habitat has declined by over 50% since 1979, while Asian elephants are now restricted to just 15% of their original range," according to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

People can also volunteer or donate to groups that help conserve elephants.

On this day, let's look at some interesting facts about elephants that may just inspire you to help conserve them. (Courtesy: WWF, International Elephant Foundation.org, and National Geographic)

  • There are three elephant species: the African Savannah elephant, the African forest elephant and the Asian elephant. While all of them are large, the African Savannah elephant is considered to be the largest land animal in the world.
  • The species can be differentiated by the shape of their ears, with African elephants' ears actually shaped like the continent of Africa, and Asian ones' ears shaped like India.
  • Their trunks are also a bit different.
  • Elephants may appear wrinkly, but they actually have little hairs all over their bodies. They also have lovely long eyelashes.
  • Elephants eat a lot of grass, fruits and plants, spending 18 hours each day eating. This also means they have a lot of poo. In fact, they create a ton of poo each week, helping keep the soils fertile and disperse seeds.
  • Elephants can actually swim but cannot jump.
  • Elephant tusks aren't just for show. They're actually teeth that are used for various tasks, and they keep growing throughout their lives. Unfortunately, these tusks also get them into danger as they are targeted by poachers.
  • Elephants cover their bodies with mud and sand to protect their skins from the sun.
  • Elephant babies can stand in just 20 minutes after being born. They can walk within an hour.
  • Unfortunately, elephant populations have greatly decreased, largely due to the ivory trade, and they continue to face threats.
representational image pixabay