African Elephant (Loxodonta africana)

The African elephant is the largest land animal on Earth.  The largest recorded weight for an elephant is 26,000 pounds, but even an average adult African elephant weighs 4.6 tons. They can stand 12 ft tall at the shoulder, carry tusks that weigh up to 200 lbs and are 10 ft in length, eat about 330 lbs of vegetation per day, and drink about 5 percent of their body weight per day.  Elephants will spend most of their day eating grass, leaves, twigs, and bark, approx. 16 hours per day.  Elephants are social animals.  Herds of elephants are lead by a matriarch and are comprised of males up to the age of 15 and females of all ages.  Males separate from the herd at 12-15 years of age and roam on their own.

African elephant

African Elephant

 

Elephant females mature at around age 11, while males mature at about age 15. Despite reaching maturity at around 15 years of age, males will not mate until their mid 20s when they have moved up the social hierarchy. Elephant gestation can take around 22 months: the longest gestation of any animal.  Baby elephants weigh about 200 lbs and stand about 3 ft tall, and have a long life to look forward to of around 70 years in the wild.  The oldest known elephant lived 82 years.  Elephant babies are blind and use their trunks and their mothers as guides to find their way.

Elephant tusks are incisors, not canine teeth.  The tusks at birth are milk teeth which fall out at around 1 year of age.  Adult tusks start to protrude from the lips at around 2 to 3 years of age and continue growing throughout the elephant’s life.  Elephant teeth are gradually produced and are worn away as the elephant ages; the older teeth are pushed forward by the newer teeth and eventually fall out.  This process occurs until the sixth molar is produced.  In most elephants this is the final molar and will last for 2/5th of the animal’s life.  An elephant will usually die when this molar wears out due to starvation or being weakened due to malnutrition.  Rarely, elephants will produce a seventh molar which will extend their life.

Elephants do not grind their food in the same ways that cows do; cows will grind across their teeth from side to side whereas elephants will grind back to front.

Elephants have the largest brains of any land animal.  Elephants are extremely social,using their unique trunks to touch and caress each other.  Elephants have been known to show interest in the bones of other elephants, take care of sick or injured members of their clan, and seem to grieve for dead and dying elephants.  Elephants communicate by trumpeting and also by a deep rumbling sound. These deep rumblings are thought to be detectable for miles.

Elephants are vulnerable, not yet endangered.  They are threatened by habitat loss and poaching by humans.

Here is an example of the cuteness of baby elephants:

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~ by exceptionalanimals on March 26, 2011.

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