Facts about African Elephants
Some interesting and lesser known facts about African Elephants
- Largest animal that lives on land
- Can weigh between 4 and 7 tonnes – equivalent of 78 adult human males weighing an average of 90 kilograms each
- Both males and females have tusks
- Males are called Bulls and Females are called Cows
- Can live upwards of 70 years
- Go through 6 different sets of teeth in a life time
- Similar to humans, elephants go through puberty at 13 or 14 years of age
- They live in groups known as ‘herds’. Herds consist of females and the young. As young males reach maturity they are chased away from the herd. The herd is led by an older female, known as a Matriarch.
- The gestation period for an elephant is 22 months
- New born babies consume around 11.4 litres of a milk a day
- New born babies weigh between 77 and 113 kgs
- It was long thought that there were two species of elephant in the world - the African savanna elephant (Loxodonta africana) and the Asian elephant (Elephas maximus). However, through DNA testing, it has been discovered that there is a third elephant species - the African forest elephant (Loxodonta cyclotis).
- Elephants, like humans, have a great impact upon their environment. Elephants are referred to as a keystone species, a species upon which many other organisms depend. Elephants make pathways through the environment that are used by other animals to access areas normally out of reach. The pathways have been used by several generations of elephants, and today people are converting many of them to paved roads. During the dry season elephants use their tusks to dig into dry river bottoms to reach underground sources of water. These newly dug water holes may become the only source of water in the area. Forest elephants create clearings that allow sunlight to reach the forest floor. This gives ground vegetation a chance to grow and feed the smaller forest animals.
- African elephants are capable of making a wide variety of vocal sounds, such as grunts, purrs, bellows, whistles, and the obvious trumpeting. Elephants are also capable of making low frequency sounds that are below the human range of hearing; this allows wandering individuals within the herd as well as several different herds to stay in direct contact over distances of many miles.
- They do not use their trunks to drink, but as tools to drink with
- They can swim considerable distances and in deep water they hold their trunks above the water like periscopes
- They have four toes on their front feet and three on the back
- They are highly social animals, and this can be seen by the greeting ceremonies they have when a friend returns to the herd after being away for some time
- They only digest about 40% of what they eat, and therefore, they need to spend two-thirds of every day eating
- Elephant numbers fell dramatically in the 1970s and 1980s, with hundreds of thousands of elephants being hunted and poached for their ivory tusks. In Africa some 19,000 elephants are still believed to be killed annually for their ivory.
To find out about the emotional lives of elephants read an article (opens in a new window) by one of the world’s leading experts on Africa’s elephants, Dr Dame Daphne Sheldrick.