Size: Length 18 to 20 ft., Height 8 to 10 ft. at shoulder, Weight up to 15,400 lbs.
Characteristics: Social, outgoing.
Offspring: One calf, every three to nine years.
· Although African elephants are the largest living land mammals, they’re also excellent swimmers.
· The lower lobes of their ears usually have holes or other types of damage.
· An elephant’s tusks continue to grow throughout its life.
· When excited or irritated, African elephants, especially the males, can knock down a large tree.
· From 1860 to 1930, 25,000 to 100,000 African elephants were killed annually for their ivory.
· Authorities predict near total extinction of African elephants in the wild by the mid-2000s if the current rate of slaughter continues.
Although African elephants are similar to their only other living elephant relative, the Asian elephant, there are obvious visual differences. African elephants are larger in size and have much larger ears. While both male and female African elephants have tusks, only male Asian elephants do. However, Asian and African elephants have much the same behaviour. They eat a vegetarian diet of leaves, nuts, fruit, branches, twigs, grass and bark. Both are hunted (illegally) for their ivory tusks. Elephants carry food and water to their mouths with their trunks. Their feet are thickly padded, allowing them to walk quietly, despite their massive size. When necessary, they can run at speeds of up to 25 miles per hour. Elephants are active both during the day and at night, taking rests at intervals. During the hottest parts of the day, they rest in the shade either by lying down or leaning against a tree or each other, and fan themselves with their ears to cool down. Females can be found in herds, numbering from seven to 1,000 individuals. Juvenile males may form social groups for short periods, but males usually spend most of their adult lives living alone. When elephants come across a dead elephant, they react in an emotional way, and caress the remains. Elephants don’t behave this way when they come across other types of dead animals, leading researchers to believe that elephants mourn their dead.
African elephants can be found in forests, marshes, semi-desert or open grasslands. They’re never far from water, because they need to drink daily and enjoy bathing every evening—they’ll totally immerse themselves if they can find deep enough water. If the water isn’t very deep, the elephant will take water in his trunk and squirt it over himself. After bathing, they roll in dirt to protect themselves from insects. Elephants prefer areas that combine grass, low woody plants, and forest.
During mating, a cow and bull elephant often separate themselves from the rest of the herd for several days or more. Cows are ready to mate by the time they reach eighteen, while bulls are at least twenty before they are capable of contending with the other bulls for the privilege of mating with a cow. The cow will give birth to a calf (twins only occur in up to 2% of births) after a pregnancy of 22 months. The baby, who will weigh about 100 kg at birth, can stand within hours and will be able to keep up with the herd in a few days, by holding onto his mother’s tail, or the tail of an older sister. Other elephants in the herd become excited when a new baby joins the herd, and the entire herd will wait until the youngster can travel. The calf begins to eat grass in several months, but he also continues to nurse for six years or more before being weaned. Mothers are very affectionate with their young and caress their babies with their trunks. Females stay with the same herd their entire lives, but males are driven out by the females when they reach twelve to fourteen years of age, because they begin to play too roughly around the rest of the herd. A young male may follow the herd for awhile, but eventually goes off on his own. The life expectancy of an African elephant is similar to that of a human—up to 70 years or more.