Elephant animal<<<< Back to wild animals
- Kingdom: Animalia
- Phylum: Chordata
- Class: Mammalia
- Order: Proboscidea
- Family: Elephantidae
- Genus: Loxodonta
- Conservation status: Vulnerable
- Length: 5 - 7.5 m
- Height: 2.5 - 4 m
- Weight: 3000 - 6000 kg (6600 - 13.000 lbs)
- Food: Herbivore ( Plants, Grass)
- Speed: 40 km/h (25 mph)
- Predators: Lion, Hyena
- Sexual Maturity: 10 - 20 years
- Gestation Period: up to 24 months
- Population: 300.000
- Lifespan: 60 - 70 years
- Litter size: 1 calf
- Distinctive Feature: Large, round ears. Long nose. Can drink up to 50 gallons of water a day.
The elephant (Loxodonta africana) is part of the Elephantidae family (proboscis animals). They are part of the largest terrestrial quadrupeds animals, that weigh 100 kg at birth. The oldest animal in captivity was 86 years old and lived in Taipei, Taiwan.
The elephants are herbivores. Besides the forest or savannah grass they also consume soft stemmed plants, tree leaves, different fruit and flowers, even twigs, tree stems or roots. They must eat big quantities to satisfy the necessary energy demanded by their immense body and to complete the materials that form the tissues. Most part of the day is spent in search of food, to provide the necessary levels of vitamins and minerals of the body. In a day -in about 16 hours- an elephant can consume up to 225 kg of food.
The elephant uses its trunk to quench his thirst. It needs a lot of water- for the African elephant 5 liters of waters is just a sip. The elephant pulls water in the trunk, closes the holes in the end, then bends the trunk so that the end will enter the mouth and then evacuates the content. All these are not easy to learn, so the baby elephants will lick the water using the mouth in the beggining.
Currently elephants are the largest and heaviest land animals, besides that they have the longest incisor teeth, longest nose and maybe the best memory. With their weight of several tons, their movement can be nimble. In the forests, if necessary they will sneak noiselessly. These "gentle giants" are sensitive beings with emotions, living in close ties with family members and other members of the herd.
The african elephant males can weigh over 6 tons. The weight of the head can be a quarter of the body's weight. This body part, besides its considerble weight, is loaded with means for obtaining food - the trunk, tusks, chewing masses, the giant jaw muscles.
The ivory tusks are elongated teeth - modified incisors - used to remove tree roots or shelling trees. The male elephants use their tusks in fights for establishing the hierarchical order, fights prior to mating season. Unlike teeth, the tusks grow throughout the elephant's life. An old African elephant was found with tusks of over 3 meters long.
The elephant's head is supported by a short, strong neck. Therefore the elephant can't bend its head to gather food. This deficiency was removed by the process of evolution, by the development of the trunk, resulted from the elongation of the upper lip and nose. This grand organ is constituted of thousands of muscles and is used for a multitude of operations, including picking fruits, water suction, breaking branches and digging roots. The trunk is sensitive both to the touch and to smell, the elephants use it to identify a foreign elephant but also to greet family members or to caress the desired mate.
The movement of the huge elephant body is not cumbersome. The short and robust legs equally divide the weight on all 4 legs. Like the horse, the elephant walks on his toes. The scattered bones of the fingers are supported by a round sole and a spongy tissued heel. The thick skin covering the sole scuffs and continously recovers. Contrary to the deformed appearance, the elephant is an agile animal, not afraid of any form of terrain: easily traversing both swamps and rocky grounds, leaving few tracks on solid ground. This land giant also swims well: using the trunk as a breathing tube, it crosses rivers and lakes.
- African Forest Elephant
- Asian Elephant
- Borneo Elephant
- Indian Elephant
- Sri Lankan Elephant
- Sumatran Elephant
The family members are bound by strong ties, all help with raising and defending the calves. Sometimes, when elephants meet, they run towards each other and as a greeting they make a sound resembling the bugle sound. If everything is ok, the herd members are quiet, muttering, but if the herd is threatened by something , they stop grunting and the adults will form a circle around the calves. They have an interesting behaviour when a member of the herd dies. Often they stay around the body, touching it, caressing it and sometimes they also try the burial. If a baby elephant dies, the mother will mourn him. At times, the mother will grab the dead baby and take him to a place where she will stay by his side for several days.
The only source of ivory are the elephant incisors. This material was always cherished by man. In the past, when cars and rifles didn't exist, the elephants were hard to hunt and only a few fell victim to humans. Today, using off-road vehicles, they can easily be reached and with the help of modern weapons, shot from a great distance. A huge number of elephants were slaughtered for their ivory tusks making them almost extinct. In 1979 in the wilds of Africa, only 1.3 million elephants were still alive, but due to poaching the number fell to 600,000 in 1989. On account of the global concerns on the fate of the elephants, in 1989 restrictions were introduced regarding the international ivory trade. This measure proved very beneficial.
The gestation of the African elephant lasts 22 months, with the Indian elephant 21 months, and the female gives birth usually to just one calf. The babies weight is around 100kg, with a height near 1 m. In the first two years it is breastfed, but in the meantime learns to use his trunk and chew grass and bushes.
The male calves reaching adulthood- around 14 years old- are expelled from the herd, not to mate with family mambers, the female calves stay with the herd for life, and until their first birth they help raise the younger offsprings.
The oldest elephant lived in Asia in captivity up to 86 years in the Taipei Zoo.
Did you know that:
The elephant is the only mammal that can't jump
The elephant uses his ears to regulate body temperature
The elephant is considered the largest and heaviest animal on the planet
The elephant is the only animal with four knees.