The Elephant

 

 

The African Elephant is the largest living land mammal, one of the most impressive animals on earth. The Elephant's muscular trunk serves as a nose, hand, extra foot, signaling device and a tool for gathering food, siphoning water, dusting, digging and a variety of other functions. The long trunk permits the elephant to reach as high as 23 feet. It is capable of powerful twisting and coiling movements used for tearing down trees or fighting. The trunk of the African elephant has two finger-like structures at its tip. The tusks, another remarkable feature, are greatly elongated incisors (elephants have no canine teeth). Tusks grow for most of an elephant's lifetime and are an indicator of age. They are "right or left tusked" using the favoured tusk as a tool, shortening it from constant wear.

Size: Up to 11 feet; Weight: 3½ - 6½ tons

Diet: Herbivorous

Diet Description: Elephant graze and browse and eat up to 600 pounds of food a day. They can be extremely destructive in their feeding habits by pushing over trees, pulling them up by their roots or breaking off branches.

Distribution: They are widely distributed throughout central, western and eastern Africa, south of the Sahara, with the forest elephant inhabiting the rainforests of the Congo basin. There are isolated populations in the southern African sub-region.

Habitat: Dense forests to open plains - Clean drinking water and a plentiful supply of food are an elephant's only habitat requirements. They graze and browse and eat up to 600 pounds of food a day. They can be extremely destructive in their feeding habits by pushing over trees, pulling them up by their roots or breaking off branches.

Socialisation: Elephants are generally gregarious and form small family groups consisting of an older matriarch and three or four offspring, along with their young. It was once thought that family groups were led by old bull elephants, but these males are most often solitary. The female family groups are often visited by mature males checking for females in estrus. Several interrelated family groups may inhabit an area and know each other well. When they meet at watering holes and feeding places, they greet each other affectionately.

Reproduction: Single young born any time of the year. Gestation 22 months.

Life span: 60 to 70 years

Interesting Facts: The elephant is distinguished by its high level of intelligence, interesting behavior, methods of communication and complex social structure. Elephants seem to be fascinated with the tusks and bones of dead elephants, fondling and examining them. The myth that they carry them to secret "elephant burial grounds," however, has no factual base.

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