Born Free Foundation - Keep Wildlife in the Wild


African elephants are the largest land animal on the planet. They are slightly larger than their Asian cousins and have a number of differences such as their larger ears, concave-shaped backs and trunks which have two opposing lips. 

In the heat an elephant will use its ears to help keep it cool. They will also shower themselves by sucking water into their trunks and spraying it over their backs and sides. Following their shower, they often spray their skin with a coating of dust which acts like a sunscreen and insect repellant.

(C) George Logan

Elephants can eat as much as 150kg of food a day, and can drink up to 50 gallons (227 litres) of water, using their trunk to squirt the water into their mouth, 1 gallon (4.5 litres) at a time.

They are fast walkers and will walk around 15 miles per day.  Some herds have been observed to cover 120 miles in one day. 

Elephants have four molar teeth; each one weighs about 5kg and is 30cm long. In time they wear down and drop out in pieces, and new molars surface in the back of the mouth. An elephant will replace these teeth six times in its lifetime. At about 40 to 60 years of age, the elephant no longer has any molar teeth.

Elephants’ ivory tusks are actually teeth; they are the second set of incisors which continually grow and curve forwards to become the tusks. They are used for digging and stripping the bark off trees, fighting and defending themselves against predators and help to protect the trunk. The tusks can weigh up to 45 kg (599 lb) and can be 2.4 m (8 ft) long. Unlike Asian elephants, both male and female African elephants have tusks.

(C) Michael Vickers
(C) Carrie Wilkie

Elephants have the longest gestation period (pregnancy) of any animal at 22 months!  Females give birth around every 4 to 6 years. The head of the family unit is a female, called the matriarch.

Although an international ban on trade in elephant ivory was established over 20 years ago, a few countries wanting to make money out of elephants’ precious teeth have managed to weaken this ban. The illegal killing, or poaching, of elephants is a massive problem, some estimating that around 38,000 elephants are currently being killed each year to feed the illegal ivory trade.

Conflict between humans and elephants is also a huge threat to the species’ survival. This conflict can be fatal for both sides, and is mainly due to the loss of elephant habitat to logging, agriculture and human settlement. Elephants may be forced into settlements, where they can cause huge damage to crops and people’s property. As human populations continue to grow, this problem is only expected to get worse.

Males: Bull
Females: Cow
Body Length: 600cm to 730cm
Body Height: 220cm to 400cm
Weight: 2150kg to 6050 kg
Life Expectancy: 55-60 years
Diet: Herbs, trees, shrubs, grass
REGION: Africa
HABITAT: Forests, partial deserts, grasslands
Born Free Foundation
Broadlands Business Campus, Langhurstwood Road
, Horsham, RH12 4QP, UK - Charity Reg. No. 1070906

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