All About Elephants

Elephant

There are 3 different types of elephant, the African Savannah elephant, the African forest elephant, and the Asian elephant. There are some subspecies of elephants, but for this article, we will be discussing the 3 types mentioned above. We will be talking about every aspect of the elephant, so you will eventually know all there is to know about them, so let’s get started with the African Savannah elephant.

The African Savannah Elephant:

The African Savannah elephant is the largest of all three types and the largest of all land mammals. A full-grown bull elephant can stand as tall as 13 feet at the shoulder, and weigh in excess of 14,000 pounds, that’s about 7 tons. Incidentally, due to their massive size, elephants are one of the few animals that cannot jump, though they can walk, run, and even swim, quite efficiently.

The Savannah elephants also have longer tusks and are more curved, this can be a downfall for them as this is the type of elephant that poachers go after for the ivory. They use their tusks and body weight to push over trees to get to the vegetation, but they also use their tusks for digging in the dry season, to find water below ground. This, in turn, supports other life that wouldn’t normally be able to find water if the elephants weren’t there.

A herd of elephants is made of about 12 to 15 elephants, mostly female, as male elephants often leave the herd when they are about 15 years old. The herd is led by the oldest female elephant, referred to as the ‘matriarch’ elephant. The herd is very dependent on the matriarch for finding food and water, especially in the dry season, and this is because her memory will be the best.

You’ve probably heard the saying “got a memory like an elephant”, well, elephants do have great memories. An elephant can remember old watering holes from many years before, so the older the elephant, the chances are she can remember watering holes and food which younger members have never seen before. This makes the matriarch most important to the survival of the whole herd in the long term.

Poaching and deforestation:

The main reason that elephants are endangered is not because of predators, but because they have no natural predators. Lions will take a baby elephant or a diseased elephant, but this is a natural balance and not enough to endanger the elephant as a whole. The main reason for such a large loss of elephants is poaching and deforestation, with poaching the number one reason.

The ivory business is big business, and to some, it’s worth risking everything to get hold of the elephant’s ivory tusks. So much so that there have been groups of poachers with automatic weapons killing literally thousands of elephants in a very short period of time. Also, with the population increase in humans and the amount of land needed, deforestation has turned forests into farmland, and this messes with the balance of nature for the elephant.

Helping the elephant:

Fortunately, there are large groups helping to save the elephant, which is a monumental task, because it takes more than just a few people with good intentions. It takes large companies and charities as well as lots of donations and working with the African government as well as the natives that live there all working together. One such place is the Wildlife Conservation Society or WCS for short, they collect donations and work with all the above-mentioned entities to help save the elephant.

Another well-known group is the WWF which has been in operation for 60 years or more, working in over 100 countries to help protect various endangered species as well as helping protect our planet by conserving forests, helping those in poor countries to get water and food and even doing a large part in the ocean, safeguarding marine life and much more.

If you would  like to know more about the work that these entities do, you can visit them here:  https://global.wcs.org/ and here: https://www.worldwildlife.org/

You can read about all the good these websites do for the animal kingdom and even donate, get involved or even adopt an endangered animal. We encourage you to check them out for further information.

Diet and habitat:

The African Savannah elephant has a number of habitats, including forest, bush, grasslands, and even desert. Due to deforestation, there is much more grassland than there was years ago, so they have adapted quite well to the changes in the environment.  The elephant will eat a great variety of food depending on the time of year and what is available to them.

Most of the time they will eat grass and vegetation from trees, but they will also eat a number of fruits and berries if available. When times are hard, like in the dry season, they will often eat roots or bark from trees. One of their favorite trees, especially during the dry season, is the Baobab tree, and it’s easy to see why when you know a little more about this special tree.

The Baobab tree can grow as high as 20 meters or more, and live up to 2000 years or more, that’s pretty spectacular for any living thing. So why are they so special for the elephant? Well, these huge trees can store as much as 100,000 liters of water or more. So in the dry season elephants seek them out to scratch away at the bark to get to the moisture-laden insides, because remember, elephants have to drink up to 50 gallons of water a day.

The African Forest Elephant:

The forest elephant is a cousin of the Savannah elephant, but it is smaller, the ears are more oval, and its tusks are straight instead of curved like its cousin. The forest elephant also reproduces at a much slower rate than the Savannah elephant, so it is much harder for them to make a comeback when their numbers decline. These smaller elephants live in the dense forests of central and West Africa, as opposed to the open plains like the Savannah elephant, this makes it much harder to keep an exact count of how many are still around.

The African forest elephant has only really recently been studied compared to other species, probably due to its high-density forest habitat, so little is known about them compared to the Savannah elephant. These smaller elephants, usually not growing to more than about 8 feet high, are classed as the Gardeners of the forest, due to their high intake of fruits and berries. Their main staple is fruits and berries, so they disperse the fruit and berries seeds over wide areas, keeping the natural balance of fresh growing trees and bushes.

African forest elephants usually hang out in family groups of about 20 and stay close together, even while feeding. The number of forest elephants is thought to be less than 500,000 though it could be far less, but there are ongoing efforts to prevent losing more of these majestic creatures. The main reason for their decline is poaching for their ivory tusks and deforestation, as well as their very slow reproduction, making it difficult for them to bring their numbers back when so many are lost each year.

The forest elephant lives up to 60 years, compared to the Savannah elephant which can live to 70 or more. The forest elephant also doesn’t produce young until the age of 20 or more, whereas the Savannah elephant can produce young as early as 12 years old. There is also a much larger time frame between calves with the forest elephant than with the Savannah elephant. Savannah elephants can produce every 3 – 4 years, while the forest elephant is every 5 – 6 years or even longer.

The Asian Elephant:

 

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