The elephant is one of the most easily recognisable animals in the whole wide world. African elephants and Asian elephants are true gentle giants. Many of us have seen them in zoos, and some of us have even been lucky enough to catch a glimpse of them in their natural habitats. A gentle giant of nature, the elephant is a truly amazing creature, that without the help of conservationists and charities, could be completely wiped out within a matter of decades. The sad truth is that their habitats are being crushed to make way for infrastructure projects, and poachers are still taking aim to at these beautiful beasts to meet the demands of the illegal ivory trade. Charities like Elephants For Africa are working to conserve the elephants’ natural ecosystems, as well as promoting education across the globe, and learning more about elephants using dedicated research programmes.

African elephants are keystone species, meaning they play a critical role in their ecosystem. Also known as “ecosystem engineers,” elephants shape their habitat in many ways. During the dry season, they use their tusks to dig up dry riverbeds and create watering holes many animals can drink from. Their dung is full of seeds, helping plants spread across the environment—and it makes pretty good habitat for dung beetles too. In the forest, their feasting on trees and shrubs creates pathways for smaller animals to move through, and in the savanna, they uproot trees and eat saplings, which helps keep the landscape open for zebras and other plains animals to thrive.

Elephants communicate with each other in many ways and with all their senses. They rely less on their eyes than humans do but visual signals are important and the position of their ears and trunks show what mood they are in. Their sense of smell can tell them something about another elephant’s health or sexual condition. Touch can also be used to convey some information. However, the main way an elephant communicates deliberately is by sound. Elephant vocalizations range from high-pitched squeaks to deep rumbles, two-thirds of which are emitted at a frequency too low for the human ear to detect. Such low frequency calls may be heard by other elephants at distances of at least eight kilometers.

General Elephant Facts

Did you know that the word “Elephant” is actually latin for “huge Arch”? These animals certainly are huge and impressive beasts. In fact, the elephant is the largest living land mammal in the world. A male elephant can grow up to 4 metres in height and weigh up to 7 tonnes; whilst their females counterparts can still weigh in at a mere 3.5 tonnes.To feed an animal of such gigantic proportions takes a lot of food. Their daily food intake is almost as much as 4-7% of their body weight. When you are an elephant, that equates to finding and eating an awful lot of food. As you would expect, all that food needs to be digested and dozed off, which is why our elephant friends can deposit upwards of 150 kg of dung daily! Eew!

Elephants are herbivores and only eat grasses, herbs, fruit, plants and trees. Their healthy, vegetarian diet is obviously good for them as the average elephant has a life span of around 70 odd years, a bit like we do Despite their size, they are actually pretty nimble and can walk up to 195 km per day, although they usually only average is only 25 km on a daily basis. They can also run faster than you would expect, easily reaching speeds of 40 mph, which is a lot faster than us humans can run.

Where once elephants roamed across the whole of Africa, they are now limited to conservation areas and the Savannah. African and Asian elephants can currently be found in 37 African countries, and across 13 Asian countries.

Most people believe that there are only two species of elephant in the word, but in fact there are three:

  • African savannah, Loxodonta africana
  • African forest, Loxodonta cyclotis
  • Asian, Elephas maximus

Elephant Reproduction

Reproduction is one of the most important elements of nature. It ensures the continuation of every species, and every species does it differently! In the elephant world, females are generally ready to become a mum at around 15-16 years old and can give birth to as many as 12 calves throughout the course of their lives.

Whilst we consider the human gestation period to be lengthy, at a mere 9 months, be thankful you are not an elephant! The average gestation period for a female elephant is a whopping 22 months. That’s a long time!

Female elephants must have a thing for the older man, as males do not come into their prime until they are between 30-35 years of age. Around this time, they experience period of “musth”. Musth is a periodic condition in bull elephants that is characterised by highly aggressive behaviour and is accompanied by a large rise in reproductive hormones. Testosterone levels in an elephant in musth can be as much as 60 times greater than in the same elephant at other times.

Musth can last for as long as six months in the dominant males and they will often stop feeding for several days during this period of time.

Size

African elephants are the largest of all land animals, adult males weighing between 1,800 and 6,300 kg (2 and 7 tons/ 4,000 and 14,000 lb.). Females are smaller, weighing between 2,700 and 3,600 kg (3 and 4 tons/ 6,000 and 8,000 lb.). Shoulder height ranges between three and four m (9.8 and 13.1 ft.).

Adult male Asian elephants weigh between 1,800 and 4,500 kg (2 and 5 tons/ 4,000 and 10,000 lb.), with females weighing slightly less. Shoulder height ranges between 2 and 3.5 m (6.6 and 11.5 ft.).


How Much Does The Average Elephant Weigh?


African elephants are the largest land animals in the world today. The average African elephant will weigh between 5,000 to 14,000 lbs. (2,268 to 6,350 kg), according to the National Geographic. However, the largest African elephant ever recorded was found in Angola, rocking in at a massive 24,000 lb (11,000 kg).
Male elephants can grow to be significantly larger than their female counterparts. Still a mighty animal, female elephants, or “Cows”, only grow to weigh from 6,000 to 8,000 pounds.
Asian elephants tend to be a smaller than their African counterparts, weighing between 4,400 to 11,000 Ibs (2,000 to 5,000 kg).


How Tall Is An Elephant?


African elephants are the largest land animals in the world today. The average African elephant will grow to between 8.2 to 13 feet (2.5 to 4 m) tall, measured from shoulder to toe, according to the National Geographic.
Male elephants can grow to be significantly larger than their female counterparts. Still a mighty animal, female elephants, or “Cows”, only grow to somewhere between 9 and 13 feet.
Asian elephants are smaller and tend to reach a shoulder height of between 6.6 and 11.5 feet (2 and 3.5 m) tall.


How Much Does An Elephant Eat A Day?


Elephants are gigantic animals and this means that they need to find an eat an awful lot of food. Their daily food intake is almost as much as 4-7% of their body weight. African elephants can eat as much as 330 Ibs (150 kg) of food a day.



How Do Elephants Have Sex?


Female elephants are generally ready to become a mum at around 15-16 years old. A male can tell when a female is ready to mate from the chemical signs she leaves in her urine and faeces. This, combined with the characteristic calls of that time, ensures that all the local males will know when the time is right to compete for her affections.
Female elephants must have a thing for the older man, as males do not come into their prime until they are between 30-35 years of age. Around this time, they experience period of “musth”. Musth is a periodic condition in bull elephants that is characterised by highly aggressive behaviour and is accompanied by a large rise in reproductive hormones.
Rumour has it that elephants mate for life. Whilst this is not necessarily true, animal scientist have proven that they will never stray far from mating partners.


How Do Elephants Give Birth?


Like other mammals, female elephants give birth to fairly developed babies via her birth canal.
An elephant pregnancy lasts around 22 months, meaning that new born baby elephants are not small! A baby elephant is called a calf and can weigh between 200 and 300 lbs and stand about 3 feet (1 m) tall.


How Many Babies Do Elephants Have?


Typically, elephants only give birth to one calf at a time, although twins do sometimes occur. In her lifetime (elephants can live for up to 70 years in the wild!), a female elephant can give birth to as many as 12 calves.
Not as many as babies you might think? Well that’s because the average gestation (pregnancy) period for a female elephant is a whopping 22 months. That’s a long time!

Are Elephants Really The Largest Living Land Animal?

Yes, the African and Asian elephants are the largest living land animals. Males can stand up to 13 feet (4 meters) high at the shoulder.

What Is The Smallest Species Of Elephant?

The Borneo elephant, also known as the Bornean pygmy elephant, is the smallest species of elephant by size. Found in Asia, adult Bornean pygmy elephants stand at less than 5 feet (1.5 meters) high. These elephants can weigh up to 4,000 pounds (1,800 kilograms).


How Fast Do Elephants Run?


Elephants can run faster than you would expect, easily reaching speeds of 40 mph – a lot faster than us humans can run!

Threats To Survival

Poaching for the illegal ivory trade is the biggest threat to African elephants’ survival. Before the Europeans began colonizing Africa, there may have been as many as 26 million elephants. By the early 20th century, their numbers had dropped to 10 million. Hunting continued to increase. By 1970, their numbers were down to 1.3 million. Between 1970 and 1990, hunting and poaching put the African elephant at risk of extinction, reducing its population by another half.

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