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The African Elephant -

African elephant - the largest land mammal on the planet

Known as Loxodonta Africana in Latin and translated to ‘oblique-sided tooth’ in Greek, the African elephant is the largest land animal on Earth. They are the species of elephants in the genus. The grey Savannah African elephant weighs 4-7 tonnes and is 3-4 metres in height. The dark grey forest African elephant weighs 2-4 tonnes and is 2-3 metres in height.


Aswell as the Sengi, African elephants live in woodlands, mountains, and desert areas. But they do prefer to be in the moist tropic forest areas. The requirements for habitat selections are clear water and a lot of vegetation. These elephants are indigenous to Africa. There is a wide temperature range from freezing to 50°C is accepted by the elephants, only if there is lots of water and shade around. Elephants are not reliant to other types of species for survival. Humans are unquestionably the largest predator threatening African elephants. Water is one of the most important factor that influences the elephants choice of habitat. They use water for hydration, thermoregulation and hygiene. They also live at least 80 kilometers from some sort of water source at all times. They cool them selves by sit in pools of water and flap their ears to cool the blood in their bodies. Another factor for their habitat choice is vegetations. Elephants are vegetarians, they feed on leaves, grass and all sort of plants and shrubs. A fully-grown adult male elephant, bull, would consume about 150 kilograms of food, vegetation a day. To feed them selves, the elephants will use their trunk to reach the fruit or leaves from the trees, or shake the tree with their trunk to let it fall to the ground and then pick it up with their agile tip of the trunk and place the food in his mouth.

labelled diagram of the habitat of the african elephant

the distribution of african elephants over time. -

Scientific Classification


Labelled diagram of adaptions for an African elephant

Structural one - Tusks
In the last 150 years the tusks on the African elephant have grown much smaller. The average size of tusks on the African elephant has gone down by half its size in the last century and a half. The change in the size of the tusks is due to the poaching. Most ivory poachers want the largest males with the largest tusks, the poachers have caused the breeding behaviours of these African elephants to change quickly in a short time. Large male African elephants have the largest tusks. tusks grow 18 cm every year in an adult male elephant and 16 every year for a female.

Like humans, elephants are right or left handed. Their dominants tusk is usually shorter and rounded on the tip of it, due to the wear and use of it. When elephants get very old, their tusks gradually ware down to stumps, and they will have trouble eating food they need. Older elephants spend most of the days in marshy areas eating soft grass and wet leaves, that don’t need much chewing. Eventually when their teeth fall out the elephants will not be able to chew the food and eat, and will eventually die of starvation.

African elephants tusks

Tusks are used for digging the ground to dig for roots and water, to remove bark of trees and to clear the path through compact push, they are also used in fights as weapons and defense.
The tusks are very important for the African elephants behaviour, the elephant who has the largest tusks usually result in the more dominant and successful intimidation over the smaller male elephants or winning the mating fights for female elephants. When the larger animals are killed, the breeding patterns are changed. The smaller males will breed more successfully because there will be no competition by the larger males and therefore, the offspring have smaller tusks.

The African elephant have grown the tusks so they can easily move objects that are in the way of the food they are finding.

Structural two - Trunk
The African elephants truck is one of the structural adaption’s. The elephant uses its trunk for eating, bathing and to communicate with elephants. There are over forty thousand muscles in the trunk to make it very flexible and at the very tip of the trunk there are two sensitive finger-like projections. With these, the African elephant is able to pick up one piece of grass and also rip thick branches of trees. Elephants always use their trunks to break food of trees and then put it in their mouths. Using their trunk, they reach up into the trees to grab food and eat, if they can’t reach the food, they either wrap their trunk around the tree and shake it to make leaves or fruit fall down, or they rip the tree trunk out of the ground.
Two baby African elephants playing together

Elephants use their trunks for drinking and bathing. They suck the water into their trunk and either sprays it into their mouths to drink, or all over their body. They also suck in water and mud and spray it over their body while they are bathing which protects themselves from the sun. African elephants use their trunks for communication and social interaction. Elephants twist their trunks together when they meet each other, just like when humans shake hands. Other uses for the trunk is when they are playing games, during mating and to show their dominance. When an elephant raises their trunk it indicates a warning. They communicate by making sub-sonic noises when elephants are far away from each other. Elephants use their trunks to smell. When an elephant raises its trunk and swings it from side to side, it allows an elephant to find out where another friend is, enemies and food.

Behavioral one - Social herds

African elephants are social animals that live in different family group. Wild herds have females and their calves in it and those elephants are led by a matriarch who is the acknowledged and accepted leader. Just as the male elephants mature, they will be removed from the herd to form another group of male elephants, up to ten animals.

This removal of the elephants will help track the movements of the original female group. The elephants will usually move around in pairs or threes when they reach their mid twenties. In the hierarchy for the African elephants, the dominant bull has the main mating rights. To gain that position, the elephants have a trial battle against all of the other contender bulls. When the different male herds go, or come together to the water pool, instead of there being any friction between them, they are surprisingly very calm, as if it was a reunion.

When african elephants are in herds, it makes it harder for other animals to 'attack' them and therefore used for defense. Being in herds helps the elephants bond and get closer.

Behavioral two – Mating
Elephants showing affection by twisting their trunks together

African elephants are only able to conceive for a few days each year. She will separate herself from the herd. The smell of the female (cow) elephant attracts the male elephants; she also uses sounds to attract the males. The female elephants can choose what male she can mate with. She doesn’t have to mate with every male that approaches them because the females can run faster than males.

The male elephant starts the ‘romance’ but the female elephant ignores him for a few minutes. The male stops and starts again, until the female accepts it. Elephants show a lot of different affectionate interactions, such as twisting their trunks together, nuzzling and putting their trunks in each other’s mouths.

If the elephant did not mate and reproduce, there will not be any other african elephants in the world. They will die out even faster than they are now.

Behavioral three – Migration
Elephants are mainly known to be in groups or herds, to protect one another . One of their habits is to travel around together, migrate. The leader of the group is the matriarch. She leads and guides the elephants in that group, she is on ‘watch out’ for any threats to the other elephants. She makes sure that the young elephants are safe, kept well fed and that the whole group stays together.

African elephants migrating

Because of the African weather or the low rainfall the trees, leaves and plants do not grow fast enough to feed a family of elephants for a long time without having to migrate, thus the great African elephant migration. The African elephants are born travelers just like the buffalo and goose. They prefer to travel in large groups than by them selves over a long distance and period of time, to search for land and lots of food. Elephants are herbivores and liveon eating grass from the ground and leaves from trees. The lack of food is not the only reason for elephants to migrate, may be for a safer and more peaceful land, because of drought or fires, or ivory harvesting.


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