It’s October, and the monsoon is in full force. As we wrote in an earlier post the elephants love mud. They’re just oversized piggies with big floppy ears. Here’s a video for your amusement:
Why do they love mud so much? As anyone who has seen or enjoyed a muddy spa retreat can tell you, it’s good for the skin and helps with thermoregulation. Because elephants don’t sweat, when it’s hot outside the evaporating mud cools them off. Rudyard Kipling so mischievously wrote in ‘The Elephant’s Child’:
‘Don’t you think the sun is very hot here?’ [says the Rock Python]
‘It is,’ said the Elephant’s Child, and before he thought what he was doing he schlooped up a schloop of mud from the banks of the great grey-green, greasy Limpopo, and slapped it on his head, where it made a cool schloopy-sloshy mud-cap all trickly behind his ears.
What’s more, once the mud is dry, it continues to act as sunscreen, which is handy for an animal without a layer of thick protective hair (though Asian elephants are darker skinned than African elephants, and so perhaps don’t burn as easily).
The mud is a lubricant, allowing them to scratch all those itches in awkward places. And what makes them itch? The pesky parasites of course, which get suffocated in the mud, which is yet another benefit.
All of this means that elephants take their baths in reverse – they first wash themselves until they’re thoroughly clean and then dust themselves or wallow. Which brings us to the other age-old question: why do elephants have such wrinkly skin? That’s for the another post. In the meantime, can you take a guess? Hint: it’s to do with water.