The Fascinating African Elephant
The African elephant is the world's largest land mammal.
Elephants are smart, emotional, self-aware and highly social creatures.
Having roamed the wild for 15 million years, unfortunatly today, this iconic species faces the biggest threats to its survival due to ivory poaching, human-wildlife conflict and habitat destruction.
Weighing up to 6000 kg (6.6 tons) and measuring up to 3.3 m (10 ft.) at the shoulder, It is characterized by its highly dexterous trunk, long curved tusks, and massive ears.Their ears can reach up to 5 feet long. When flapped, they act as big fans, cooling the blood that runs close to the surface behind their ears.
Elephants (Loxodonta Africana)are known for their incredible memory. Matriarchs will remember the trails and watering holes and how to navigate the seasons, all knowledge handed down by their ancestors for generations, and knowledge so vital for their survival. Maybe it’s really true that elephants never forget.
Elephants will walk at the pace of their slowest member, with infants surrounded by nurturing members of the herd, and their young babies are always protected from the elements, like the wind, the rain and the sun. Elephants are herbivores (vegetarians), eating a diet of grass, fruit, leaves, twigs, and tree bark.
Musth, pronounced ‘must’, is when males experience increases in testosterone levels of a factor of 60 or more. The changes prepare them for competing for females and make them much more aggressive. The condition is more pronounced in Asian elephants, and can last for up to 60 days. Elephants in musth carry their heads and ears higher than normal and make a characteristic rumbling sound. A bull elephant in musth can be extremely dangerous to anything that gets in his way.
Elephants have one of the longest known gestations of any animal. African elephants have a gestation period of 22 months, while Asian elephants have a gestation period of 18-22 months. Elephants will typically only give birth two or three times in a decade, and young elephants may suckle for a few years. Baby elephants weigh around 100kg on average, heavier than most adult men, and some newborns have been as large as 120kg.
Tusks are actually hugely elongated upper incisor teeth embedded deep in the elephant’s head (up to a third of a tusk is hidden from view). Elephant tusks have a variety of uses: as a tool to dig for food or water and to strip bark from trees; as a weapon in battles with rivals; and as a courtship aid – the larger his tusks, the more attractive a male elephant may appear to a female. Just as humans are right- or left-handed, elephants are known to use one tusk more than the other. This favoured appendage is sometimes referred to as the ‘master tusk’ and often appears more worn.
African elephants have a lifespan of up to 70 years in the wild, but tend not to live quite so long in captivity. Elephants appear to understand what other elephants are feeling. Experiments show that when one elephant is unhappy, others share their feelings, something known as ‘emotional contagion’. In these situations, they will go over to their ‘friend’ and comfort them, often by putting their trunk into the other’s mouth, something that elephants find reassuring. Elephants will also assist other injured elephants, and even appear to mourn their dead.
Up to 12,000 acacia seeds have been counted in just one ball of elephant manure. Not only do elephants distribute these seeds far and wide, they do so in balls of natural fertilizer. Studies show that acacia seeds that have passed through an elephant gut can have a germination rate of more than 75%, compared to around 12% for those that don't.
And lastly Elephants produce a lot of methane gas as a by-product of digestion. Scientists estimate that the amount of methane they emit in one day would be enough to power a car for 32km.
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