Skip to content

» ELEPHANT | The world’s largest land animal

The Elephant is one of the best known wild animals in the jungle. This is because we are in front of the largest terrestrial wild animals on the planet. In this new post, we will talk to you in great detail about the characteristics, habitat, food, reproduction, predators, and relevant information of the Elephant.

Elephant Characteristics

One of the most remarkable aspects of the Elephant is the dimensions it has since its height can exceed 3 meters high, and in terms of length, these have an average of 5 meters. At the same time, it is the most massive terrestrial mammal of the planet, since its weight is around 5 tons.

Another essential feature of this animal is its trunk, which is stretched to collect herbs, leaves, and fruits to feed. The end of the trunk is coiled around the objects to pull them out and take them to the mouth of the Elephant. Additionally, the horn is used by this animal to drink water; in fact, it can ingest up to 200 liters of water a day.

At the same time, elephants have large auditory pavilions, whose primary function is thermoregulation. These ears are highly vascularized to allow adequate cooling of the blood. Elephants can also use these large ears like a fan back and forth to cool down on hot days.

On the other hand, it has mammoth tusks to break the bark of trees to feed on, and also serve to fight some predators or other elephants.

Elephant Habitat

Elephants are strictly wild animals that can generally be found in African expanses (in the case of the African Elephant), savannas, grasslands, swamps, and forests (in the case of the Asian Elephant), and almost any other site that has a water source.

It is now common to find elephants in protected areas to keep them safe from poachers. However, elephants like to migrate regularly, as they are not comfortable in captivity; they need to be always on the move.

Feeding

As for their eating habits, elephants are herbivorous animals, as they feed on tree bark, grass, shrubs, and fresh fruit. Every day these animals ingest about 200 kilos of food to maintain proper energy intake. In addition to fruits, elephants usually drink a large amount of water a day to stay well hydrated under the intense heat.

Mothers give milk to their children for about 4 years, although if she becomes pregnant in that period, she will wean them earlier.

In order for mothers to get enough food to create the milk, they nurse their offspring for part of the day and then other females in the flock watch over the offspring. Although babies can start consuming plants when they are about one year old, they need the nutritional value of milk to grow and thrive.

Reproduction

To reproduce, elephants have a courtship ritual in which both the male and female rub their bodies together and join their trunks. Usually, the female opposes the beginning for a few minutes so that the male has to chase her.

Then, when the male is ready for reproduction, he begins to move his ears abruptly to spread his pheromones and attract more females.

Females reach sexual maturity at 14 years of age, and these enter into heat at almost any time of the year, so there is no need for a reproductive time during the year for this species. In turn, the gestation period of an elephant is 22 months, which represents the most extended period of pregnancy in the animal kingdom.

Females have only one offspring per birth and may have between five and twelve elephant offspring during their lifetime.

How much does a baby elephant weigh?

After 22 months of growing in her mother’s womb, a newborn baby elephant weighs more than the average adult human. Females weigh 90-100 kg (198 to 221 pounds). Males are heavier, weighing up to 120 kg (265 lb).

Predators

Because of its enormous dimensions, the Elephant has few predators to fear in the wild. However, a newly born elephant can fall prey to certain predators such as hyenas, cheetahs, lions, etc. However, this is also unlikely since adult elephants usually protect their young very well to keep them safe from any enemy.

Also, the greatest threat to the Elephant is man, as he has taken charge of destroying its habitat and hunting elephant populations for their ivory tusks and skin. The extinction of this species has now been prevented by the creation of protected areas so that elephants can live and reproduce without any problem.

Elephant Species

It is estimated that there were about 350 types of elephants in the world. However, today we only have two of them, the species from the Asian region and the species from Africa. Both breeds are in danger of extinction.

These are the types of elephants:

Asian Elephant

The Asian elephant (Elephas maximus) originates from this continent, where it is found in Sumatra, Sri Lanka, India, China, and Indonesia. It lives in areas with bushes and open spaces where low vegetation prevails. It measures from 2 to 2.5 meters and weighs an impressive 5,500 kilograms.

In terms of appearance, the Asian elephant has a muscular body with skin in shades of grey and brown. The head is elongated and has a distinctive forehead shape, as well as ears smaller than those of the African elephant. This species is very quiet and sociable, lives in groups of more than a dozen individuals and males are usually a little more solitary than females.

The Asian elephant has three subspecies:

  • Sri Lankan Elephant (Elephas maximus maximus).
  • Indian Elephant (Elephas maximus indicus).
  • Sumatran Elephant (Elephas maximus sumatranus).

African savannah elephant

The African elephant (Loxodonta africana) is known as the largest terrestrial mammal on the planet. Its body reaches 7.5 meters at the withers, more than 4 meters high and, on average, males weigh 6 tons. Females are a little smaller, measure about 3 meters high and weigh a maximum of 4.5 tons.

The skin of the savanna elephant is grey or brown with hairs on the tip of the tail. Males develop long ivory tusks. The species is sociable and quiet, inhabits communities of up to 20 individuals where females dominate the group.

What is the difference between african and asian elephants

The only difference between them is only the size since the forest elephant is smaller than the savannah elephant and has been recognized as a species in 2010 until then it was considered a subspecies of savannah elephant. We will look at their differences in more detail below:

Differences in habitat: Where do elephants live?

The Asian elephant lives in Asian tropical forests, with low vegetation zones and scrub. While in Africa, the elephant inhabits large regions with different habitats.

African forest elephants live in dense forests and jungles. Their smaller size than the savanna elephant allows them to move more quickly. Savannah elephants, on the other hand, inhabit forests and mountains but predominate in savannah and grassland regions.

Differences in size and anatomy: What do elephants look like?

The African elephant is the largest terrestrial mammal on Earth. It can reach 3.5 metres high, 7 metres long and weigh between 4.5 and 6 tonnes. The Asian elephant is smaller, reaching 2 meters high, 6 meters long and up to 5 tons in weight.

Depending on the shape of its back, we can see a visible difference. The Asian elephant has a loin with an arched shape, with the highest point in the centre of the loin. On the other hand, the African elephant has a more flat back with the highest point at shoulder level.

As for the shape of the head, we also observe differences between them. The Asian elephant has a forehead marked with two humpbacks at the top separated by a central furrow. The African elephant, on the other hand, has a more stylized forehead and the presence of a single mound or hump in the central part.

Asian Elephants

elephant in west bengal

What is the difference between african and asian elephants

Differences in the ears

The ears are one of the most characteristic elements of elephants and one of the factors to take into account when differentiating the African elephant from the Asian elephant. At first sight, observing only the ears, we can differentiate the two species.

The ears of the African elephant are much bigger than those of its Asian cousin; they fall on both sides of its head and reach to cover the shoulders of the animal. Its shape is very characteristic and resembles the silhouette of the African continent. They are vital when regulating body temperature in an environment such as the savannah.

Asians, on the other hand, have much smaller and rounded ears, without falling on the shoulders. They do not need ears as big as the Africans because they live in much colder regions.

African elephant

animal elephant ear

Differences in the trunk

The trunk is undoubtedly the most important organ of an elephant, allowing it to perform essential tasks in its life. It is an organ formed by the nose and upper lip, which they use to breathe, smell, barrel, drink, and grasp objects. It contains about 100,000 different muscles and has excellent mobility.

Visually they are very similar between the two species, differing only in the number of lobes or fingers. The lobes are the protuberances in which the tube ends and are the ends that allow the elephant to grasp objects with it.

The difference according to its trunk is that the African elephant has two lobes at its end, one lower and one upper. On the other hand, the Asian elephant has a tube with only one lobe at the upper end.

elephant trunk

How much an elephant weighs

Differences in the legs

The legs of both species differ in the number of fingers they have.

African forest and bush elephants has 4 or 5 toes on its front legs and 3 on its hind legs. The Asian elephant has 5 toes on the front legs and 4 on the hind legs.

Differences in the tusks

Elephants use tusks for tasks such as digging, moving, or lifting objects such as trunks or branches and are also used as a resistive element of possible threats.

African elephants have tusks, both male and female. They are older in males.

As for Asian elephants, not all have tusks. Usually, the females do not present them, and in the case that they have them, they are very small.

animal with larger teeth

elephant tusks

Differences in the tail

The tail is very similar in both species, so it is not easy to differentiate them by this trait. It should only be noted that the Asian elephant has a longer tail in proportion to the rest of the body.

Rounding: How to differentiate the African elephant and the Asian elephant?

As we have seen, several features allow us to differentiate between an African elephant and an Asian elephant. In short, the African elephant has a larger size, with large ears reminiscent of the African continent. Its trunk has two fingers, and in its head, there is only one hump.

The Asian elephant is smaller, with small rounded ears that do not reach the shoulders. Their trunk has only one finger and sometimes no tusks. Its skull has two humps or mounds.

Elephant facts interesting

Next, we will detail curiosities, facts, and peculiar elements that have some of them:

Physical facts of elephants

The ears of elephants are large organs vascularly irrigated that serve to thermoregulate effectively. So, the ears help them to dissipate body heat, or haven’t you ever noticed how they fan with their ears to air themselves?

The trunk is another distinctive organ of elephants that serves multiple functions: showering, picking up food and putting it in their mouths; pulling up trees and shrubs, cleaning their eyes, or throwing dirt on their backs in order to worm themselves. Besides, the tube has more than 100,000 different muscles, isn’t that incredible?

The legs of the elephants are very particular, and they resemble strong columns that support the gigantic mass of their bodies. Elephants walk at a speed of 4-6 km/h, but if they are angry or flee, they can move at more than 40 km/h. Also, it is curious to mention that, despite having four legs, its enormous weight does not allow it to jump.

elephants sri lanka

Social facts of Elephants

Elephants live in herds of females related to each other and their offspring. Male elephants leave the herd when they reach adolescence and live in isolated groups or carry individual stock. Adults approach herds when they detect females in heat.

An old female is a matriarch who leads the herd to new water sources and pastures. Adult elephants consume about 200 kg. of leaves daily, spending between 15 and 16 hours on food, so they must continuously move in search of areas with new food available. On the other hand, they can drink up to 15 liters of water in a single intake.

Elephants use different sounds to communicate or express their moods. To call themselves at a distance, they use infrasounds that cannot be heard by humans.

Utilizing the soles of their legs, they feel the vibrations of the infrasounds before hearing them with their ears (the sound travels faster through the earth than through the air). The difference in time between picking up the vibrations and hearing the sound allows them to calculate the direction and distance of the call very precisely.

animal that can't jump

The memory of elephants

The brain of elephants weighs 5 kg and is the largest among terrestrial beings. In it, the zone destined to the memory includes a significant part. For this reason, the elephants count on a great memory.

I remember that on one occasion I saw a television report in which they gave the news of the incorporation of a female elephant to the zoo of the city. At a precise moment, the microphone used by the speaker was coupled, emitting an annoying whistle very close to the proboscis. The elephant was frightened, and enraged began to chase the speaker, who had to throw himself into the moat surrounding the perimeter of the facility to get away from danger.

Years later the television team covered another news in that enclosure. For a few seconds, the presenter stood next to some bars that formed a side door of the installation of elephants, sighted in the distance the female with which the speaker had the problem.

Surprisingly it was seen that the elephant picked up a stone from the ground with its trunk and in a fast movement threw the stone very forcefully against the television team, not correcting by millimeters the body of the speaker. This is a sample of the memory, in this case, resentful, that the elephants possess.

elephants can't jump

The must and the seismic forecast

The must is a strange eventual madness that the Asian male elephants can suffer cyclically. During these periods they become very dangerous, attacking anything or anyone who approaches them. “Domesticated” elephants must remain chained by a leg to a huge tree for the duration of the must — a terrible and stressful practice for them.

Elephants, as in other animal species, are sensitive to natural catastrophes, being able to sense them in advance.

In 2004 there was an extraordinary case in Thailand. During a tourist excursion, the elephant employees began to cry. With their trunks, they began to pick up the surprised tourists, placing them in the big baskets of their loins. Then they fled to the highlands, saving the humans from the terrible tsunami that ravaged the entire area that Christmas.

This is proof that although humans have been subjected to this enormous and beautiful animal, he has been able to help it at certain moments in history.

mammoth in a river

Elephants in danger of extinction: How many elephants are left in the world?

According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), both the Asian elephant and the African elephant are in danger of extinction, but both species are in different classifications.

The African elephant is in the “Vulnerable” range, while the Asian elephant is marked as “Endangered“. In this sense, it is estimated that there are around 15,000 specimens of African elephants, while the Asian population is estimated between 40,000 and 50,000.

Although numbers may seem high compared to other endangered species, elephant populations continue to decline.

Why are elephants in danger of extinction?

Given the small populations, what are their main threats to elephants, both Asian and African?

Poaching is the biggest problem facing elephant populations as they are killed to get ivory from their tusks and meat. This is compounded by habitat loss and fragmentation, causing herds to move to more remote locations in an attempt to get the food they need to survive.

Another factor that has become a threat to elephants is their use for tourism or recreational activities. Because of this, elephants are captured to serve as transportation or entertainment in circuses or festivals, where they are harassed and forced into forced labor.

In addition to these, the warlike conflicts that plague many African countries become a problem for the species, which see their plant resources depleted and waters polluted due to human activity.

How to save elephants?

At present, several actions can be taken to help in conservation, most of which must be implemented by the organizations of the countries where the elephants live. Among these actions to save elephants, the following stand out:

Eradicate poaching

To reduce the killing of elephants, governments in Asia and Africa have taken action to control and subsequently eradicate poaching. To this end, they have applied sanctions to people arrested while hunting, ranging from fines to several years in prison. Despite this, it is still difficult to ensure the safety of elephants, as they inhabit large areas of territory and travel hundreds of kilometers in search of food.

Support of environmental foundations

Some foundations are currently helping to protect elephants, including Save the Elephants in Kenya and the Save of Elephants Foundation in Thailand. Both are responsible for caring for abused and abused elephants, including rehabilitation and ecotourism programs for people.

Avoid the purchase of manufactured ivory items

Not buying ivory items is a way to help stop poaching, as elephants are often killed just to get their tusks.

Contribute to environmental conservation

One of the greatest threats to the elephant is the destruction of its habitat, as it directly affects the survival of populations.

elephant background

If you are against animal abuse and want to contribute a grain of sand for poachers to stop killing these animals, please share in some social network.