Each elephant’s ear is unique and different to any other elephant’s ear. They are used just like fingerprints on a human as a type of identification. When a threat is perceived, the ears are spread wide on each side of the head, which produces a huge frontal area. Because elephants have very few sweat glands they flap their ears as one means to help cool down the surface of their body.
Elephants spend a lot of time in the water and mud – another very important and enjoyable way to keep cool. Normally the skin is covered with dust, soil or mud to prevent insect bites, ultraviolet radiation damage and moisture loss. The skin of the elephant is not equal at all locations of the body. The thin skin is 1.8 millimetres deep, found in the ear, around the mouth and anus. The thicker skin is found on the head, back and buttock and can be 2.5-3.5 centimetres or more thick. The skin is a highly sensitive organ with a rich nerve supply. Asian elephants have pretty patches of pink skin representing localized areas of depigmentation on their forehead, neck, ears and forelimbs.
Asian elephants are highly intelligent and self-aware. They have a very large and highly convoluted neocortex, a trait also shared by humans, apes and certain dolphin species. Elephants have a greater volume of cerebral cortex available for cognitive processing than all other existing land animals, and extensive studies place elephants in the category of great apes in terms of cognitive abilities for tool use and tool making. They exhibit a wide variety of behaviours, including those associated with grief, learning, non-maternal infant care, mimicry, play, altruism, use of tools, compassion, self-awareness, memory, and language. Elephants use infrasound (inaudible to humans), to communicate over long- distances. The sound waves that they produce travel through solid ground and are sensed by other herds using their feet – herds may be separated by hundreds of kilometres. These calls may be used to coordinate the movement of herds and allow mating elephants to find each other.