- There are three species of elephant: the African Forest Elephant, African Bush Elephant and the Asian Elephant, and they are the largest living land mammal. African elephants are different from Asian elephants in several ways.
- The African elephant’s ears are larger and are shaped like the continent of Africa. The male and female African elephants have tusks. The African elephant is usually larger and the Asian elephant has a back that is concave, or curved downward. African elephants are less hairy than the Asian elephant.
- The Ice Age, which occurred over 10,000 years ago, killed off the other species of elephants, otherwise known as mammoths and mastodons.
- Elephants are called pachyderms, which means thick-skinned animals, and most elephants have skin that is 1 inch thick.
- Elephants wallow in rivers and streams. They dig up the mud and spray in over their bodies to protect the skin from the harsh rays of the sun. The mud not only protects the elephant from getting a sunburn, but it also protects their skin against insect bites, the loss of moisture and helps to regulate the animal’s body temperature.
- Most elephants are grey in color.
- African elephants can grow to be 13 feet tall and weigh 8 tons or more.
- The most distinguishing feature of the elephant is its trunk. The trunk is actually the elephant’s nose and upper lip which have joined together. Scientist now believe the elephant’s trunk may contain over 40,000 muscles. At the end of the trunk, the African elephant has two finger-like projections and the Asian elephant has one. The elephant uses these projections just like we use our fingers.
- The trunk is also used for drinking. The elephant sucks water up into its trunk and then sprays the water into its mouth. The water can also be sprayed on their bodies to cool them. An elephant will also wrap its trunk around the trunk of another elephant. This gesture is much like a handshake. They use their trunks to play and for fighting or defending themselves.
- Elephants are classified as herbivores, or plant-eaters. They always use their trunks to tear up their food and then place it in their mouth.
- Elephants like to eat grass and pull fruit and leaves off the branches of trees. If an elephant can’t reach the leaves or fruit, they will shake the tree or sometimes even push the tree over.
- Female elephants live with other females and their young. Males live mostly alone. The oldest female in the herd is called the matriarch and she is the leader. Baby elephants are called calves.
- It takes 22 months for a calf to be born and when they arrive, they can weigh 260 pounds. Elephants can live to be 70 years old.
- Elephants have no natural predator, although a full grown lion will go after a calf if they are willing to deal with an angry herd of female elephants. Poaching, however, has become a real problem for elephants.
- Poachers are people that hunt elephants and kill them mostly for their ivory tusks. The elephant is a protected species throughout the world.
African Elephant 1
AWF: Wildlife: Elephant
Center for Elephant Conservation
Echo of the Elephants: PBS
Elephant: Habitat and Food
Mastodons, Mammoths & Other Giants
National Geographic: Elephants
Nature: Echo of the Elephant
Nature: The Elephants of Africa
PAWS: Save the Elephants
Riddle’s Elephant & Wildlife Sanctuary
WWF – Elephants Overview
Zoom: All About Mammoths