Elephant species are of the only surviving family, Elephantidae, within the Proboscidae order. There are currently three recognized extant elephant species in the world, African forest elephants, African bush elephants, and Asian elephants. Elephants are spread across a wide range in South Asia, sub-Saharan Africa, and Southeast Asia, occupying deserts, forests, marshes, and savannahs. The life expectancy of elephants in the wild is 70 years. Among the three species of elephants, African bush elephants are the biggest land animals. Make elephants are usually larger and taller than female elephants. The smallest elephant species are the African forest elephants. There are around 326-351 bones in an elephant’s skeleton. Asian elephants have 19-20 pairs of ribs, and African elephants have 21 pairs of ribs. An elephant’s weight is carried by its pillar-like legs. Their limbs are more vertical than other animals to support the weight.

Wild adult female elephants give birth to calves. Adult females produce one offspring and sometimes twins. Elephants may have twins around 1% of the time, unlike human beings who may have twins around 3.21% of the time. Calves or baby elephants are the center of attention in their family groups or herd and rely mostly on the mother for milk for up to three years of age like humans. Mothers provide all the nutrients that calves need through their milk.

Mom and baby are doing well and spending these first days bonding. They can be seen daily at the Park’s elephant habitat or you can watch them live via the ElephantCam on the Park’s web site or Safari Park iPhone app. The average gestation period for African Elephants is 649 days — or 22 months. A newborn elephant normally weighs between 200 to 268 pounds (90-121 kg); this little calf weighed in at 205 pounds (92 kg). 

How Much Does A Baby Elephant Weigh?

As the heaviest land animal on earth, it’s no surprise that elephants give birth to big babies. How much does a baby elephant weigh? More than an average human! Newborn African elephants mostly weigh between 90-120 kg (198-265 lbs).

Like humans, baby elephants are dependent on their mothers for a long time. If an elephant calf makes it through this vulnerable stage, it will grow into one of Africa’s most iconic animals.

Calves At Birth

On average, newborn calves stand about 1 m (3 ft.) high and weigh 120 kg (264 lb.) at birth. Newborn male African elephants may weigh up to 165 kg (364 lb.). Newborn Asian elephant calves weigh about 91 kg (200 lb.).

The newborn is helped to its feet by its mother and other females. Calves are able to stand on their own within minutes of birth.

The mother and other females help guide the calf to nurse almost immediately. The trunk of the calf is still short, so it uses its mouth to nurse.

Calves are able to walk within one to two hours of birth.

Within two days, calves are strong enough to join the rest of the herd, which is waiting patiently nearby.

Calf Development

Mothers, aunts, sisters, and the matriarch are very important to calf development. The pace of the herd is adjusted, so the young can keep up. Calves learn which plants are edible and ways to acquire them, by watching their elders. Mothers and aunts are in almost constant affectionate contact with the young, offering guidance and assistance.

Calves nurse for the first six months of life. Elephant milk is high in fat and protein (100 times more than the protein contained in cow’s milk).

On average, calves drink about 10 L (21 pt.) a day.

Calves begin to experiment with their developing trunks between four and six months of age by picking grasses and leaves to supplement their diet. Weaning from milk gradually follows this process. Calves are not completely weaned until they are over two years of age and may weigh between 850-900 kg (1,874-1,984 lb.).

How Much Do Baby Elephants Weight?

A newborn elephant. It looks tiny next to a parent but can weigh more than 200 pounds!

Baby elephants weigh around 200 lbs at birth and over the next 20 years grow to be 8,000 -15,000 lbs! They can reach a height of 10-13 feet! Depending on the kind and gender of elephant, babies can start out as “little” as 150 lbs or be as big as 360 lbs.

Here are some baby elephant records to give you perspective on just how big baby elephants can get:

  • The largest baby elephant ever born at the San Diego Zoo was a 281 pound calf. It was born in September, 2018.
  • On May 12, 2020 the Houston Zoo welcomes an even bigger baby elephant. The male Asian elephant calf was 326 pounds!

Baby elephants grow fast! For example, Tucson welcomes a baby elephant in 2020 and within nine months it weighed 900 pounds! The juvenile elephant was gaining about 85 pounds per month! Amazingly, despite the size of elephant calves, twins are possible. Elephants have twins about 1% of time, compared to humans that have twins 3.21% of pregnancies.

What Do You Call A Male Adult Elephant? And An Adult Female? What About A Baby? 

Elephants have little in common with cattle, but they share with them the names for adult male (bull), adult female (cow) and juvenile (calf). Even their collective noun is the same: a herd of elephants.

What Are The Closest Relatives Of Elephants?

Elephants, hyraxes and sea cows (dugongs and manatees) are related. Most genetic studies place the sea cows closer to elephants than the hyraxes. The aardvark was thought to be the next closest group, but recent genetic studies suggest that the perissodactyla (horses, tapirs and rhinos) are more closely related to the elephant. The common ancestor between elephants and aardvarks lived some 55 million years ago.

Do All Elephants Have Tusks?

Unlike Asian elephants, in which only males have tusks, both male and female African elephants are tusked. However, due to the hunting pressure on tusked animals brought about by poaching for ivory, tusklessness is an increasingly common condition in African elephants. 

I Heard That Elephants Can Regrow Their Tusks – Is It True?

Humans grow two sets of teeth in their lifetimes – the rootless “milk teeth” of childhood and the second, rooted set of teeth which are supposed to last into old age. With the amount of food elephants eat every day, their teeth wear down at alarming rates, and that’s why they grow not two but six sets of chewing teeth (molars) in their lifetimes. Tusks do not wear out so fast, so an elephant does not grow more than one set in its life. In fact, tusks are rootless, just like human milk teeth. However, they do continue to grow in length throughout the lifetime of the elephant.

What Does An Elephant Use Its Tusks For?

Elephants use their tusks to pry bark off trees or dig for roots, and in social encounters as an instrument of display or as a weapon. 

What Is The Full Purpose Of The Elephant’s Trunk?

The trunk combines both nose and upper lip and transforms them into a single powerful organ that is able to touch, grasp and smell. It is strong enough to uproot a tree, sensitive enough to pick up a pea-sized fruit from the ground, and long enough to reach foliage high in the trees. The trunk is also used to drink by sucking up water and squirting it into the mouth. Finally, elephants use their trunks for greeting, caressing, threatening, and throwing dust over the body.

The elephant’s trunk has about 15,000 muscles and it takes baby elephants quite some time to learn to master its use.

Why Does An African Elephant Have Such Large Ears?

The enormous ears of elephants act as cooling devices. The gigantic earflaps (which can measure up to 2 square metres (21.5 square feet) are equipped with an intricate web of blood vessels. When the animal flaps its ears, the blood temperature lowers by as much as 5 degrees Celsius (9 degrees Fahrenheit). 

Why Is An Elephant’s Skin So Wrinkled?

Wrinkles are also related to the need for these large animals to keep their body temperature down. Wrinkles increase the surface area, so there is more skin to wet when the animal bathes. All the cracks and crevices trap moisture, which then takes much longer to evaporate. Thus, a wrinkly elephant keeps cooler for longer than it would with smooth skin.

How Much Do Elephants Drink In A Day?

An adult elephant will drink about 225 liters of water per day and this can sometimes be drunk during a single visit. Each trunkful may amount to between 4 and 8 liters. 

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