African elephants

African elephants information, pictures and trivia

African elephants are native to a wide variety of habitats including semi-desert scrub, open savannas and dense forest regions. Their habitat ranges from sea level to 16,000 feet (4,877 m). The African elephant is the largest living land animal and weighs up to 5,400 kg. It inhabits the Savannah, brush, forest, river valleys, and semi-desert regions of Africa south of the Sahara Desert.  Besides its greater size, it differs from the Asian elephant in having larger ears and tusks, a sloping forehead, and two “fingers” at the tip of its trunk, compared to only one in the Asian species.

African elephants are capable of making a wide variety of vocal sounds, such as grunts, purrs, bellows, whistles, and the obvious trumpeting.  Elephants and people have always had an interesting relationship.

People have had to contend with elephants destroying their crops.  However, it is the elephants who have had the greatest burden.  They have been hunted and poached for their ivory tusks, been prevented from migrating between feeding and water sites, and have lost due to conversion into agricultural areas and human dwellings.  While the whole elephant population throughout Africa is declining, some countries in southern Africa have the opposite problem: too many elephants.  The future of the elephant in Africa is a complex issue that will need to resolve overpopulation in some areas and under population in others.

The African elephant can be quickly distinguished from the Indian elephant by its greater size and its larger ears, which may reach a length of about 5 ft from top to bottom. The African elephant is tallest at the shoulder, has more wrinkled skin, and bears tusks in both male and female. The Indian elephant is tallest at the arch of the back, bears tusks in the male only, and has one lobe instead of two on its trunk.

Despite their great weight, which in African elephants reaches 15,400 pounds and in Indian elephants reaches 11,000 pounds, elephants walk almost noiselessly and with exceptional grace, their columnar legs keeping their bulk moving forward in smooth, rhythmic strides. A thick cushion of resilient tissue grows on the base of the foot, absorbing the shock of the weight and enabling the animal to walk high on its hooflike toes. Elephants normally walk about about 4 mph and can charge at up to 25 mph.

Common name: African, savannah elephant

Class: Mammalia

Order: Proboscidae

Family: Elephantidae

Genus species: Loxodonta (slanting tooth) africana (from Africa)

Size: 3 to 4 m (10 – 13 ft.) tall at shoulder; 6 to 7.25 m long (20 – 24 ft.)

Weight: 3200 to 6400 kg (7000 – 14000 lb.), females are smaller

Description: largest of all land mammals, with large ears, a long trunk, and large tusk

Life Span: up to 70 years

Gestation: 22 to 24 months

Sexual Maturity:  females (cows) 10 to 11 years, males (bulls) 10 to 20 years

Habitat: found in the forests, grasslands, marshes, scrub, and semi-desert areas of sub-Saharan Africa.  There is a distinct sub-species, the forest elephant, found in the tropical forests of central Africa.

Diet: herbivore that eats all types of vegetation such as grasses, leaves, fruits, and bark

Status: listed by USFWS as threatened and protected by CITES