The African elephant according to MammalMAP
African elephants (Loxodonta Africana) are the largest terrestrial animals that roam this planet, and can be found in 37 sub-Saharan African countries, and are most abundant in Kenya, Tanzania, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia and South Africa. While elephant numbers in some countries are secure, in others the populations remain endangered. According to the IUCN Red List, they are classified as Vulnerable. This decline in numbers is mostly because of poaching for ivory, illegal hunting, and of course loss of habitat caused by the increase of the human population.
African elephants are easy to recognise with their big grey bodies, large ears, tusks and long trunks, which are used for handling food as well as communication, and contains about 100 000 different muscles alone. They are 6 to 7.5 meters in length, stand more than 3 meters high and can weigh up to 6 tonnes! That is almost as heavy as 6 cars! The tusks, which are large modified incisors, grow throughout both a male and female elephant’s lifetime. In the wild, elephants can live up to 70 years.
Elephants eat fruit, leaves, roots, grasses and bark, and can consume up to 136 kilograms of food in one day. They don’t get much sleep as they roam across the land foraging for plenty of food to sustain their huge bodies.
Elephants have the longest pregnancy than any other mammalian species (22 months), and give birth to one calf every two to four years. Baby elephants weigh in at 90 kilograms already when born, and stand 1 meter tall. Calves are weaned after 6 to 18 months, and adult male elephants, or bulls, leave their herds to roam on their own, while female elephants (cows) live in herds with their infants.
Two subspecies of the African elephant is recognised, namely the savannah elephant and the forest elephant. Forest elephants are smaller and darker than savannah elephants, and have straighter tusks, while the tusks of savannah elephants curve outwards. The shape and size of the skull and skeleton also differs between the two subspecies.
Blanc, J. 2008. Loxodonta africana. In: IUCN 2013. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.1.
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