africana (bush elephant)
cyclotis (forest elephant)
Shoulder height: malesaverage 10.5 feet (3.2 meters); females8 feet (2.4 meters)
Weight: malesup to 15,000 pounds (6,800 kilograms); femalesup to 8,000 pounds (3,600 kilograms)
Life span: may live more than 50 years, possibly up to 65 years
Gestation: 21 to 22 months
Number of young at birth: 1
Weight at birth: 198 to 264 pounds (90 to 120 kilograms)
Height at birth: 26 to 42 inches (66 to 107 centimeters); average 35 inches (89 centimeters)
Age of maturity: 13 to 20 years
Conservation status: African forest elephant is endangered; African bush elephant is threatened
Class: Mammalia (Mammals)
Shoulder height: 8.2 to 9.8 feet (2.5 to 2.9 meters)
Weight: malesaverage 11,000 pounds (4,990 kilograms); femalesaverage 6,000 pounds (2,720 kilograms)
Life span: may live more than 50 years
Gestation: 20 to 22 months
Number of young at birth: 1
Weight at birth: 110 to 250 pounds (50 to 113 kilograms)
Age of maturity: 17 to 20 years
Conservation status: endangered
An elephant’s skin is so sensitive that it can feel a
fly landing on it.
• Elephants use their trunks to drink but the water doesn’t go all the way up the trunk like a straw. Instead, the elephant sucks water part way up the trunk, curls it toward its mouth, tilts its head up, and lets the water pour in.
• The low, resounding calls elephants make can be heard by another elephant up to 5 miles (8 kilometers) away!
• Elephants have been relentlessly hunted for their tusks, even though the tusks are made of dentine–the same as our teeth!
elephant range: India, Nepal, and Southeast Asia
Elephants are large and gray and have big ears and long trunks, right? If all elephants seem the same to you, take a closer look.There are two different kinds of elephants: African and Asian. Here are a few ways to tell them apart.
African elephants Loxodonta africana Have large ears that are shaped like the continent of Africa, both males and females have visible tusks, their skin is very wrinkly, their backs are swayed, and the end of their trunk works as if they have two fingers there to help them pick things up.
Asian elephants Elephas maximus Have smaller ears, usually only the males have visible tusks, their skin is not as wrinkly, they only have one "finger" at the ends of their trunks, and their backs are dome-shaped.
All in the family
Both African and Asian elephants live in close social groups called herds. A herd is usually made up of related females, called cows, and their offspring. The leader of the herd is called the matriarch. The matriarch is usually the oldest and most experienced female in the herd. She decides when and where the herd will eat, rest, and travel. Adult males, called bulls, don't live in a herd. Once male elephants become teenagers, they leave the herd. Only after they become adults will they visit other herds, and that is only for short periods of time to breed. Bulls do not take part in caring for the young.
Baby elephant walk
At birth, a baby elephant, called a calf, may stand three feet (one meter) tall. A calf is usually quite hairy with a long tail and a very short trunk. It uses its mouth to drink its mother's milk, so it doesn't need a long trunk to feed. Calves are clumsy at first with their trunks, but they learn to use them as they grow older.
Elephants' ears are a little like air conditioners. As elephants flap their wet ears on a hot day, the blood flowing through the many blood vessels there is cooled. This in turn cools their large bodies.
Wild elephants eat all types of vegetation, from grass and fruit to leaves and bark—about 220 to 440 pounds (100 to 200 kilograms) each day. The elephants at the San Diego Zoo and the San Diego Zoo Safari Park eat less—about 125 pounds (57 kilograms) of food each day. Most of their diet is hay, herbivore pellets, and acacia browse. (The male African elephant at the Safari Park needs to eat 70,158 calories each day!) The elephants also drink about 30 gallons (113.5 liters) of water each day.
The biggest of all
The largest elephant on record was an adult male African elephant. It weighed about 24,000 pounds (10,886 kilograms) and was 13 feet (3.96 meters) tall at the shoulder! Most elephants don't get that large, but African elephants grow larger than Asian elephants.
Thick skin, soft heart
Pachyderm means "thick skin" and this term often refers to both elephants and hippopotamuses. An elephant's skin can be up to one inch (2.54 centimeters) thick on some parts of its body. Even though it's thick, an elephant's skin is also very sensitive. Elephants often spray themselves with water, or roll in the mud or dust for protection from sun and biting insects.
Tooth and tusk
Tusks are an elephant's incisor teeth. They are used for defense, digging for water, and lifting things. Elephants also have four molars, one on the top and one on the bottom on both sides of the mouth. One molar can weigh about five pounds (2.27 kilograms) and is the size of a brick! Each elephant can go through six sets of molars in a lifetime. When elephants get old, their teeth are sensitive, so they prefer to eat softer food. Marshes are the perfect place for soft plant food, so old elephants are often found there. Many times they stay there until they die. This practice led some people to think that elephants went to special burial grounds to die.
A unique nose
An elephant's trunk is both an upper lip and a nose. A trunk has more than 40,000 muscles in it. That's more than a person has in his or her whole body! An elephant's trunk is so strong and agile, it can push down trees or pick up a single piece of straw.
Elephants make many different sounds. Some sounds cannot be heard by people. They can use these sounds to communicate with each other over long distances. Ever had your stomach growl at an unfortunate moment? Well, stomach growls are a welcome sound in elephant society. Their stomachs make loud rumbling and growling noises that other elephants can hear, which seem to be contented sounds signaling "everything is okay."