WTF Fun Fact 13525 – Elephant Dung Coffee

Who’s in the mood for some elephant dung coffee?

When you think about coffee, elephants probably don’t come to mind. But in the case of Black Ivory Coffee, these gentle giants play a crucial role. Produced mainly in Thailand, this luxurious brew costs a fortune but offers a unique taste experience that leaves a lasting impression.

Elephant Dung Coffee Really Exists

Farmers feed carefully selected Arabica coffee cherries to elephants. The animals savor the cherries, and their digestive systems get to work. As the cherries pass through, a natural fermentation occurs. Later, farmers collect the beans from the elephants’ waste.

Why involve elephants? The answer lies in chemistry. The digestive enzymes of the elephant break down coffee’s bitter proteins. The process also adds new flavors to the beans, resulting in a complex profile with floral notes and less bitterness.

Cleanup and Roasting

After collection, workers thoroughly clean the beans. They then proceed to dry and roast them. The roasting heightens the unique flavors imparted during the elephant’s digestive process. After roasting, the beans are ready for brewing, and coffee connoisseurs can finally taste this exotic brew.

The unusual production method raises questions. Is it ethical to use elephants in this way? Producers argue that they treat the elephants with care and respect, ensuring a humane process. Some even allocate a portion of their earnings to elephant conservation efforts. Still, the debate continues.

Because an elephant processes a limited number of cherries and many beans get lost or damaged during digestion, the output remains low. This scarcity, coupled with labor-intensive collection and cleaning, explains the high cost, which often exceeds $500 per pound.

The Niche Market

Given its steep price, Black Ivory Coffee targets a specific audience. Luxury hotels and high-end restaurants primarily serve this unique beverage. These establishments cater to clientele who seek a rare and exclusive coffee experience.

For those who can afford it, brewing methods matter. Most prefer using a French press to fully capture the complexity of flavors. The result? A cup of coffee that not only delights the taste buds but also tells a story from bean to brew.

Conservation Questions about Elephant Dung Coffee

Some Black Ivory Coffee producers claim that their business aids elephant conservation. However, the extent to which these efforts actually benefit conservation initiatives remains unclear.

Black Ivory Coffee defies conventional coffee production and offers a taste experience that’s in a league of its own. Though it courts controversy and caters to a niche market, it also challenges our perceptions of what coffee can be.

 WTF fun facts

Source: “No. 1 Most Expensive Coffee Comes From Elephant’s No. 2” — NPR

WTF Fun Fact 13506 – Human Hair Can Hold Two Elephants

When considered collectively (by the head), human hair can hold two elephants! That’s right, it can support the weight of two giant creatures.

Let’s explain.

The Anatomy of a Hair Strand

To truly grasp the astonishing strength of human hair, we must first delve into its structure. Each strand is composed of keratin, a type of protein. This protein is arranged in coiled coils, a configuration that provides both flexibility and strength to the hair.

The innermost layer, known as the medulla, is surrounded by the cortex, which in turn is encased by the outermost layer, the cuticle. Each of these layers contributes to the hair’s overall resilience.

One individual hair strand, despite its tensile strength, is unlikely to impress anyone with its ability to support weight. However, the collective strength of hair is where the true marvel lies.

The average human head has approximately 100,000 to 150,000 hair strands. When working in tandem, these hairs can exhibit strength that belies their delicate appearance.

Why Human Hair Can Hold Two Elephants

So, how do we arrive at the claim that human hair can hold two elephants? Let’s break it down:

  • An average strand of hair can support about 100 grams in weight. This might not seem like much, but when multiplied by the average number of hairs on a human head (let’s take the midpoint of 125,000 strands), we get a total weight of approximately 12.5 tons.
  • An average adult elephant weighs about 6 tons. So, theoretically, the combined strength of the hair on a human head could support two elephants, amounting to 12 tons!

The capacity of hair to support immense weight is just one facet of its remarkable nature. Hair can stretch up to 30% of its original length without breaking when wet. This elasticity is yet another testament to its durability.

But beyond its tensile strength and elasticity, hair also serves as an indicator of our health, reacts to emotional stimuli (like standing on end when we’re frightened), and plays a vital role in regulating body temperature.

 WTF fun facts

Source: “Secrets of human hair unlocked at Natural History Museum in London” — The Guardian

WTF Fun Fact 13072 – Elephants Swim

Despite their size and weight, elephants swim with great skill. They can cross rivers, swim underwater, and even float when they get tired.

How do elephants swim?

The elephant’s trunk is one of its best swimming tools. It acts as a snorkel when they go underwater, helping them breathe.

Not all elephants get the chance to swim unless they live in swampy areas or near deep enough rivers. But they’re built to do it. Even their feet have webbing that helps them glide through the water. Their ears help them keep water out of their ear canals, and their tails can even act as rudders.

Learning to swim

Elephants aren’t born knowing how to swim. They typically learn how to use their trunk as a snorkel at a few months old. That’s when their mother brings them to a nearby body of water and watches over them while they learn.

Despite looking like they’d immediately sink to the bottom of the water, elephants are also naturally buoyant. That makes it very difficult for them to drown (unless they get caught up in rapids).

According to the Elephant Guide website (cited below):

“Elephants typically swim using somewhat of a breaststroke. For us humans, this will be comparable to a “doggy swim” type of stroke rather than a clean human breaststroke.
The elephants’ four legs are used to propel them through the water. Their legs are so powerful that they can swim continuously for as long as six hours! An elephant’s head and torso are generally kept just below the surface of the water as it paddles its massive limbs back and forth on a typical swim.”

Swimming for distance

The longest recorded elephant swim was 22 miles and 6 meters deep!

But typically they go for short swims to cool off. Distance swimming only occurs when they need to cross a body of water.  WTF fun facts

Source: “Can Elephants swim? They even swim underwater!” — Elephant Guide

WTF Fun Fact 12931 – Killed by elephants in India

If you live in certain parts of India and encroach on the increasingly small amount of land where wildlife still rules, you could be one of the 100+ unlucky people to be killed by an elephant each year. In fact, a woman in India was killed by an elephant in January 2022 and witnesses say it returned to her funeral and trampled her corpse.

Typically, elephants are empathetic creatures, but as their land is increasingly encroached upon, they can be dangerous.

Killed by an elephant in India

Elephants typically keep to themselves. But as building and other types of habitat destruction increase, some small farmers are forced farther into elephant territory to find land to grow food. There, they can have their crops trampled or be killed by a single elephant or group of elephants that feel threatened.

According to the World Wildlife Fund (cited below), over 100 people are killed by elephants each year in India “over 200 people have been killed in Kenya over the last 7 years.”

The WWF notes that “Elephants are often killed in retaliation. Wildlife authorities in Kenya shoot between 50 and 120 problem elephants each year and dozens of elephants are poisoned each year in oil palm plantations in Indonesia.”

Rare incidents involving elephants

Perhaps one of the most popular (albeit unconfirmed by official sources) incidents involving an elephant in India happened in January of 2022.

According to Mashable:

“On June 10, 2022, the woman named Maya Murmu, who hailed from Raipal village in the district of Odisha Mayurbhanj, was brutally attacked by an elephant in a nearby forest while collecting water.

According to news reports, she was rushed to the hospital where she was pronounced dead very quickly after.

After bringing her body home, her family proceeded to make the necessary arrangements for her funeral, but it was all for nought as on the day of her funeral, the very same elephant returned to the village in an extremely foul mood.”

In Odisha, elephant attacks are slightly more common due to their proximity to the creatures. But this is very atypical behavior. While some people insist the woman was assisting poachers in threatening baby elephants or throwing stones at the creatures, there’s no legitimate evidence of that.

However, there are multiple reports that “the elephant then proceeded to attack the funeral and targeted Maya’s corpse, trampling it furiously before letting out a roar that signalled other elephants from its herd to wreck the rest of the village. The same elephant also somehow managed to identify Maya’s home, and went on smash it, killing the goats living there.

By the end, nearly the entire village had been wrecked, and many of the inhabitants had lost their homes (although thankfully, no one else was hurt).”

Indian newspapers have reported it, but local authorities have yet to directly confirm the specifics.

It’s hard to know what to believe in these cases, but it’s clear that elephants are capable of getting pretty angry under certain circumstances.  WTF fun facts

Source: “Battles over ever decreasing land” — WWF