The elephant is the world’s largest living mammal on land. It is magnificent and majestic when it thrones its way through the savannah or the Asian rainforest. The elephant is a working animal that possesses massive powers. It has no natural enemies other than man, and is thus a highly respected animal of its surroundings. There are two kinds of African elephants – the forest elephant and the savannah elephant, which are part of ” The Big Five ” – and then there is the Indian elephant.
Facts about the elephant
|Location:||Sub-Saharan Africa South Asia (from India to Borneo)|
|Life expectancy:||50-60 years in nature|
|Weight:||3,500 to 7,000 kilos|
|Size:||2.5-4 meters high|
|Food:||Leaves, bark, branches, roots, grass and various fruits|
|Quantity:||335,000-450,000 elephants worldwide (endangered)|
|Fun fact:||The elephant weighs the same as the tongue of a blue whale.|
According to DigoPaul, the elephant has a very well-developed trunk, a giant head with large plate-shaped ears, a short neck, large rumbling body, and legs of a powerful and stable casting. The bone structure of the elephant consists of a lot of cavities to reduce the weight of the otherwise very heavy animal. The elephant’s trunk is approx. 2 meters long, and consists exclusively of muscles, blood vessels and nerves. The 2 meter long proboscis has many functions. It is used to sniff, grab, feel, hit and drink.
The elephant is extremely thick-skinned. On the back and head, the skin is wrinkled and up to 3 cm thick. The elephant has no sweat glands, so the elephant gives off heat by waving its ears. The elephant gets tusks, and it is especially in the males that the tusks grow really big.
Elephants are large animals and therefore they also need a lot of food during the day. An adult elephant eats up to 200 kg of food a day. In comparison, it is almost the same weight as 3 adults, so it is not so little that has to go through the elephant’s system in the course of a day. The elephant’s food is vegetarian and consists only of branches, bark, leaves, grass, roots and fruit so there is a lot of food to go inside before the elephant is full. It is therefore a bit of a day project for the elephant to get full in a day. Not only does the elephant eat a lot, it also drinks a lot. The elephant drinks at least as much water as it eats food.
Female elephants have to wait a long time before their “little” baby elephant finally shows up for the first time. The elephant is pregnant for 22 months. At that time the kid manages to grow really big. When the elephant finally gives birth, a cub of 100 kg is born. The female gives birth either in the middle of the herd or on the edge of it, and the other elephants help protect the baby elephant. After 1-2 hours, the baby elephant can falter a little with the mother and the rest of the herd. The baby elephant uses its mouth to drink milk from the mother. After 5-6 months, the baby elephant quietly begins to get used to solid food, and only when it is 2-3 years old does the mother begin to wean the baby from drinking milk. Elephant cubs often eat small portions of their mother’s feces to get bacteria and nourishment. A female elephant becomes pregnant approx. every 5 years when in heat.
Rooster elephants also go into heat. For elephants, this period is called “musth”, which is a period when male elephants are in approx. Once a year. The period lasts 30-45 days, and during this period the male elephant is very aggressive and violent in its behavior. Therefore, it often leaves its herd and wanders around alone. When the male elephant is in “musth” it can be dangerous to its surroundings. This is evident when a male elephant is in musth. During this period, it discharges a particularly thick fluid from its temples next to the ear, while its urine is more greenish in it. Rooster elephants become sexually mature when they are approx. 14 years and is until they die.
The elephant is a herd animal, where especially the females thrive in the herd culture, which you can experience on a trip to Sri Lanka and trips to Borneo. The females go in a total herd of approx. 10-12 females together, where they help each other with everything. All the elephants in the herd help to raise a youngster, and if one of the elephants gets into trouble, they are helped to ‘lend a hand’. Several cases have been seen where a youngster is stuck in a mud hole, and where the female elephants together get the youngster free. The males live a little more of a nomadic life. As a 10-14 year old, the male leaves the herd and joins the herd of bachelors, or walks alone. The rooster elephant is especially alone when one is in “musth” as it gets a very aggressive behavior during this period. After mating with a female elephant, the male stays with the female for a few days to make sure that no other males are touching her. Then he moves on to the next.
At first thought, one would think that the elephant was related to other thick-skinned savannah animals such as hippos and rhinos. But it is far from it. The elephant’s closest relative must not be found on the ground but in water. The manatee is considered one of the animals closely related to the elephant. The manatee can weigh up to 2 tons and is like the elephant a slow, gray herbivore. It lives in the oceans around the Caribbean, Africa and Australia. The set of teeth revealed the connection between the manatee and the elephant. The manatee also has features of tusks and large flat cheek teeth. Another animal that is associated with the elephant is – somewhat unexpectedly – the African rock and tree badgers. Their set of teeth matches that of the elephant, and the family bond has been confirmed in recent years through research into cell nucleus DNA.