All for One, One for All
Photo Credit: Shazaad Kasmani
Tsavo East National Park, Kenya
- Order: Proboscidea
- Family: Elephantidea
- Genus: Loxodonta
- Species: L. africana
The African Bush Elephant (Loxodonta africana) or African Savanna Elephant is the largest land mammal on earth. African elephants, unlike their Asian relatives, are not easily domesticated. Slightly larger than the Asian Elephant (Elephas maximus), African Males can reach 13 feet (4 meters) in height, and weigh some 14,000 pounds (6,350 kilograms). The African variety can be found throughout sub-Saharan Africa and the rain forests of Central and West Africa. They can be identified by their larger ears that some say are in the shape of the African continent (the Asian Elephant has smaller, rounder ears). Elephant ears radiate heat to help them stay cool, but sometimes the African heat is too much even for them, and they must find a watering hole. Elephants are fond of water, and enjoy showering by sucking water into their trunks and spraying it all over themselves. Afterwards, they often spray their skin with a protective coating of dust (elephant sunblock/insect repellant).
An elephant’s trunk is actually a long nose used for smelling, breathing, trumpeting, drinking, and grabbing things. They are herbivores, so the trunk comes in handy for grabbing foliage both high and low. The trunk alone consists of about 100,000 different muscles. African Elephants have two little finger like projections on the end of their trunk that facilitates them grabbing objects (Asian Elephants only have one). Elephants eat mostly roots, grass, fruit, and bark. Since their diet consists of such low calorie food, an adult elephant must consume a whole ton of it, up to 300 pounds (136 kilograms) of food in a single day! These giants rarely sleep, as they must constantly roam great distances foraging for the large quantities of food required to sustain their massive bodies.
Both male and female African Elephants have tusks that they use to dig for food, water, and strip bark from the trees. Adult Males (bulls) also use these tusks to battle one another, and they tend to roam the wild on their own. Adult Female elephants (cows), however, live in family herds with their young. Elephants have a longer pregnancy than any other mammal, almost 22 months. Cows usually give birth to one calf every 2-4 years. Calfs are born weighing some 200 pounds (91 kilograms) and standing about 3 feet (1 meter) tall.
The recent history of the Elephant is a bloody one. Unfortunately, over the years many elephants have been killed for their tusks, because they are made out of the highly valuable substance, ivory. This trade is illegal today, but it has not been completely eliminated, and some African elephant populations remain endangered. They are currently listed as threatened.
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