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Elephants sometimes use their tusks in fights, but they're generally peaceful creatures. Most of the time, they use their tusks for digging, lifting objects, gathering food, and stripping bark to eat from trees. Elephants also have a dominant tusk, similar to the dominant hand a human uses to write.
Alexander Koerner/Getty ImagesAn elephant's trunk is actually a long nose containing more than 100,000 muscles.
Biju Boro/AFP/Getty ImagesAfrican elephants may have the best sense of smell in the animal kingdom; they can detect water sources from up to 12 miles away.
Tony Karumba/AFP/Getty ImagesElephants get warm very easily, so their huge ears work like fans which they use to cool down.
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Like dolphins and primates, elephants have shown signs of self-awareness, able to recognize themselves in a mirror.
Chris Jek/AFP/Getty ImagesElephants are social animals: They greet each other by stroking or wrapping their trunks together.
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Elephants not only can swim, they're pretty good at it, too. It probably helps that they use their trunk as a snorkel.
Ishara S. Kodikara
/AFP/Getty ImagesAsian elephants were once domesticated for battle, but are now captured for use in the tourism and entertainment industry. As you might guess, they are currently classified as an endangered species.
Tony Karumba/AFP/Getty ImagesAccording to the World Wildlife Fund, there may have been as many as three million African elephants in the early 20th century. Due to poaching, there are now around 470,000.
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Female elephants are pregnant for 22 months, the longest gestation period of any mammal.
Prakash Mathema/AFP/Getty ImagesResearchers at the University of Sussex found that elephants can identify a person's gender and age purely based on the sound of his or her voice.
Tony Karumba/AFP/Getty Images Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania found that elephants can identify one another as friends, family members, or strangers based on how they smell.
Money Sharma/AFP/Getty ImagesElephants have their own "sunscreen," and spray their bodies with sand to protect themselves from the sun.
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Female elephants live in herds, with the oldest female elephant leading the group. Males leave their family around age 12 to form their own all-male groups.
Tony Karumba/AFP/Getty ImagesElephants have big appetites and tiny sleep needs: Even though African elephants consume 160 liters of water and 300 kilograms of food a day, they only need to sleep three or four hours.
AFP/Getty ImagesElephants really do have incredible memories: Scientific American reported that elephants can remember droughts and other extreme weather conditions, which allows them to return to places where they know there will be food or water. They can also remember elephants they've met in the past, and keep track of up to 30 other members of their family.
AFP/Getty ImagesElephants maintain a strict skincare regimen. They take regular mud baths to retain moisture and protect from the harsh sun and insect bites.
Lakruwan Wanniarachchi /AFP/Getty ImagesA 2012 study
found that an Asian elephant named Koshik figured out how to imitate human speech -- in this case Korean -- as a way to bond with his human trainers.
Daniel Hayduk/AFP/Getty ImagesThe United Nations reports that 100 elephants are killed for their tusks each day; the ivory trade poses the biggest threat to elephants.
Tony Karumba/AFP/Getty ImagesElephants hold a sacred place in Eastern religious mythology. The Hindu god Ganesh is depicted as a man with an elephant's head, and according to another story, Buddha was reincarnated as a white elephant with six tusks.
/AFP/Getty ImagesA study from the National Primate Research Center observed elephants comforting their distressed friends by stroking their trunks.
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