HORSES IN STRIPES: ZEBRAS

Zebras at first sight remind us of horses. As in the case of horses, zebras, too, have hair which we call a "mane". Their body structures are also very similar to horses and they run as fast as them.

Yet, their appearance is strikingly different. As you might also suppose, this difference lies in the straight stripes that cover their bodies from head to toe. Do not underestimate a stripe, since these stripes are different in every single zebra. Just like the fingerprint, which is unique to every person, the stripes of zebras are all different. Stripes provide identification data for a zebra just like an ID card does for humans. The vertical stripes of zebras are also an important element of defence. When they come together, tigers and lions perceive the herd as a whole. In this case, it becomes difficult for the predator to choose the individual zebra, which becomes a protection for the zebras.

There are two essential elements necessary for zebras to survive: water and grass.

At times, a zebra herd wanders for 50 kilometres (31 miles) to find water and grass. But at nights they return to their own places. That is because, as we mentioned earlier about other animals, each herd leads its life in a particular territory.

Do you know that zebras very much like to take dust-baths? Indeed, zebras are very fond of dust-baths. That is because, dust-baths remove the parasites living on their bodies. Apart from this, zebras have guests that accompany them and help them in their cleaning. Oxpeckers feed on the ticks found on the hides of zebras. This way, one by one they pick the parasites that make zebras sick and cause them to itch. As you see, our Lord, Who plans and controls the lives of all the creatures and makes them helpers for each other, has also assigned some animals as helpers of others.

About half an hour after birth, a new-born zebra stands up and begins to walk, though in a faltering trembling manner. No sooner do they walk than they begin to suck their mothers' milk. Milk is very beneficial for a new-born creature. This milk, which is pink in colour by a special creation of Allah, protects them from illnesses from birth onwards. Besides that, it secures the proper functioning of their intestines.

Zebras, as is the case with all other creatures under Allah's protection, are equipped with defence mechanisms that Allah has taught them. The first of these defence mechanisms is their very sensitive sensory organs, such as seeing, hearing and smell, which Allah has given them at birth. The sensitivity of these sensory organs enables zebras to notice their predators quickly and run away. No sooner do they begin to run than they reach an incredible speed. The second defence mechanism is the following: when the herd fall asleep, one or two zebras stay awake and watch out for possible threats.

Zebras employ the defence tactics that are similar to those of human beings. However, it is interesting that these animals live in harmony in herds and make a division of labour. It is obvious that it is Allah Who creates zebras, collects them together and provides their sustenance and Who commands them to make a division of labour. If this was not the case, no one would be able to explain why some zebras make sacrifices such as staying awake all night long to protect the others.

On the other hand, for the new-born zebra who has recently opened his eyes to this world, the defence tactics Allah has taught him are much simpler. All he has to do is stay close to his mother. That is because, it is impossible for a new-born zebra to see stealthy enemies with his newly opened eyes or run away from them with his weak, trembling limbs. You see, Allah has inspired the new-born zebra to remain next to his mother always until he grows up. Otherwise, how could he know that there are predators around waiting for him and that the most secure place for him is with his mother?

Most zebras live on open grasslands where there is not much possibility to hide. For this reason, in order to stay alive, they need to move very fast. All the body structure of a zebra is devised to meet this need. For instance, their limbs are very long; they can run very long distances without becoming exhausted or losing speed. Although light, the bones of zebras are very strong.

Zebras feel the need to drink water very often. In regions where water is scarce, they use their sharp sense of smell and dig a hole to reach fresh water. In moments of danger, mature zebras push young zebras into the middle of the herd to protect them. As the zebras run together, young animals always remain inside the herd and run close to their mothers for better protection.


GIRAFFES: LIKE SPECKLED TOWERS

Often reaching a height of five to six metres (15-20 feet), you could find a resemblance between giraffes and speckled towers. The longest part of a giraffe is its neck. Its long neck enables it to reach the remotest branches on trees and feed by grazing on the sprouts and leaves. These thorny plants, which the giraffes don't chew, first go directly into their four-compartment stomach. Then they regurgitate them back to the mouth, where the giraffe chews them. Finally, they swallow them again and send them to another compartment in their stomach.

However, there is something very interesting about this process. As we have recently mentioned, giraffes regurgitate thorny plants from their stomachs back to their mouths to be chewed. But, as you may imagine, this is rather a long journey. The food needs to travel a distance of three or four metres (10-13 feet) in the long neck of the giraffe. As you can also imagine, it is unlikely that the food could proceed to its destination on its own. You are curious about how giraffes could manage this, right? Let us explain it: there is a lift-like system in a giraffe's neck that makes this possible. No doubt, it is impossible for giraffes to think, "In order to digest our food, we need to send it back to our mouths; so, we must build a lift system to accomplish this".

On the other hand, such a system could not have come about by accident. You would certainly laugh at a person who tells you, "I went to that vacant area where many years ago I left some materials to construct a building. To my surprise, I found a huge building instead of the materials. No doubt, rain, snow and sun must have worked together to build this building over the years." You would also think that this man must have gone insane and would therefore feel pity for him. It would likewise be unreasonable to think that the lift system in a giraffe's neck had come into being in the same way. Such a system could not have come into existence by chance.

Furthermore, a giraffe is not a lifeless building made up of rocks, soil and mud bricks. It is a living being that runs, feels hungry and delivers babies. Is it possible that such a living being could have come into existence accidentally? Is it possible that coincidence could grant him a long neck equipped with workable systems? Of course not.

 

It is obvious that anything a giraffe needs has been given it at birth by Allah. Allah has specially created the mouth and stomach structures of giraffes so that they can eat thorny, spiky plants without difficulty.

As in the case of the structure of its neck, the way a giraffe sleeps reminds us of Allah's existence. While sleeping, giraffes extend their necks towards their body. Except for a few minutes, they sleep on their feet in this position. Giraffes do not sleep all at the same time; one of them stays awake to protect the others. That a giraffe sacrifices its sleep for the sake of other giraffes and their reaching agreement about this shows us Allah's control over giraffes as in the case of all other animals.

Now, let's set aside how these speckled animals eat their food and talk about the way they drink water. Probably most people have never thought about how a giraffe bends down and drinks water without difficulty. However, our Lord, Who is the Creator of everything, wants us to ponder over such delicate systems.

First, let's make it clear that while drinking water, a serious problem awaits these long-necked creatures.

To understand this essential problem, we need to remember one thing: Do you recall what happens when you try to stand upside down? Exactly! Your face immediately turns red. That is because, our blood rushes to our heads with the effect of the force of gravity and exerts a pressure on the veins, which is called "blood pressure".

This is exactly what should happen when giraffes try to drink water. However, as you may also imagine this could be a major problem. Since giraffes are very tall animals - around five or six metres (15-20 feet) - the blood pressure on the head bending down from such a height becomes very great. If a human being were exposed to such high blood pressure, his brain would immediately burst.

This being the case, how do giraffes drink water without having a cerebral haemorrhage? That is because, Allah, the Creator of space, the sky, the earth and all creatures, has placed a very special mechanism inside a giraffe's head. There are little valves inside the veins of a giraffe's head. Once the height of a giraffe's head changes, these valves start to operate and prevent high blood pressure in the head.

Well, have you ever thought about why giraffes are speckled? This aesthetic appearance, in harmony with the grasslands, makes it hard for their enemies to distinguish the giraffes. Despite their giant bodies, they can thus hide from the king of the savannah, that is the lion, their foremost enemy.

In moments of danger, giraffes run at speeds of 55 to 60 kilometres (34 to 37 miles) per hour. When they begin to run, they move their heads back and forth like a pump, and curl their tails. Unlike other animals, giraffes do not take crossed steps. That is, they move their left front and hind limbs first, and then the right front and hind limbs. Owing to this, lions are hardly able to catch giraffes.

This is, no doubt, not the case for young giraffes. With their premature and weak limbs, they cannot run as fast as their mothers. For this reason, they become easy prey for lions. Yet, as we mentioned earlier, these babies always remain with their mothers. With their long limbs, mothers can give fatal kicks and thus protect them. We must stop here for a moment and think. What we call a 'giraffe' is not a human being. It is an animal. Animals do not have the faculty of thought. So, the protection giraffes and other animals provide for their young becomes possible by Allah's inspiration to them. Allah is the All-Compassionate. Regarding the mercy and compassion of Allah, a verse in the Qur'an reads as follows:

For your Lord is All-Compassionate, Most Merciful. (Surat an-Nahl: 47)

GIANT ELEPHANTS

Elephants, the largest animals on land, have two major kinds of species; African and Asian elephants. African elephants are larger than the others. They may be as high as three and a half metres (12 feet) and their weight reach around six tons (12,000 pounds). Their fan-shaped ears are two metres (6.5 feet) long and one and a half metres (5 feet) wide. As you can imagine, with such a giant body, you can't keep an elephant at home as a pet.

What makes an elephant especially different is his trunk. This long trunk, similar to a garden hose, includes fifty thousand muscles. What you have read is right: "50,000" muscles! Its nostrils are at the tip of this trunk. Elephants use their trunks to put food and water into their mouths, to lift things and, of course, to smell. This trunk is capable of holding four litres of water. They either squirt this water into their mounts and drink it or spray it on their bodies.

Surprisingly, an elephant can even pick up a tiny pea seed with its trunk - which can lift such huge things - break it in its mouth and eat it. It is really amazing that such a huge animal can accomplish such delicate operations. This "multifunctional" trunk can be used as a long finger, a trumpet or sometimes as a loudspeaker.

Besides that, elephants use their trunks to spray water on themselves to have a shower or throw dust on themselves for a dust-bath. Yet, new-born elephants fail to use their trunks. They sometimes even step on their trunks and fall down. We may find this amusing but surely these little babies do not like it. A mother elephant accompanies her young elephant for twelve years. During the first six months, she teaches the baby how to use its trunk and she never becomes bored doing this.

On both sides of their mouths, elephants have two long sharp tusks. These tusks help them to protect themselves. Also, an elephant uses one of these tusks to dig holes in the ground and find water.

The teeth of these animals - which chew fibrous plants - wear out easily. For this reason, our Lord has given them a very important characteristic: Every worn-out tooth is replaced by another in the back row.

One full-grown elephant can eat 330 kilograms (726 pounds) of plants everyday. This amount is equal to six small bales of straw. Everyday, elephants spend most of their time feeding themselves.

Now, let us give you another interesting piece of information about elephants. Have you ever thought how these huge thick-skinned animals cool themselves? As you might imagine, elephants cannot sweat because of their thick skins. Instead, they cool themselves with the help of the water and mud they see around. Of course, elephants have other methods to freshen themselves. For example, they use their ears as fans and cool their bodies with them. The thin blood veins on their ears also cool them and cause overall refreshment.

Another feature of elephants has surprised hunters and zoologists for a long time. What astonished them was the rumbling of elephants' stomachs. While rumbling, elephants' stomachs make very loud noises. Yet, what is astonishing is not the loudness of these noises but the way elephants control them. In fact these noises have nothing to do with digestion. The elephants make these noises to detect the location of their friends. More surprisingly, in the face of a danger, they all of a sudden become silent. Once they sense the threat is over, they start making noise again. Thanks to this method, elephants can communicate with one another even from four kilometres away.

The migration stories of elephants have always astonished zoologists. These animals with their giant ears and huge bodies migrate in the dry seasons and always follow the same paths. What is even more interesting is that they clean up garbage such as chips of wood they find on their way.

Since elephants are animals that spread over vast areas of land, it is essential that they establish strong "communications" between them. Elephants do not owe this communication to their sharp sense of smell alone. Beside this, Allah has created an organ on their forehead, which makes a hoarse noise. Thanks to this organ, elephants talk to each other with a secret, coded language other animals fail to understand. These hoarse noises elephants make can reach very long distances. For this reason, this special noise that elephants make is ideal for long distance conversation.