The two species of elephant, African and Asian, are the largest land animals in the world. An Asian bull may achieve a height of 10 feet at the shoulder and may weigh up to 6 tons. An African bull can weigh up to 7 tons. African elephants have large ears and two fingers at the end of their trunk. Asian elephants have much smaller ears and one finger at the end of their trunk.
The elephant's trunk is actually a combination of the upper lip and nose.
It is prehensile and can grasp onto many different things such as another
elephant's tail. The trunk is sensitive enough to pick up a single blade of
grass and strong enough to pick up a heavy log.
African elephants have much larger ears than their Asian counterparts. Both male and female African elephants grow tusks; in Asian elephants, only the male grows tusks. Elephants have "fingers" at the bottom of the ends of their trunks. The African elephant has two finger at the end of its trunk, whereas the Asian has one.
An elephant can draw up to four gallons of water into its trunk before squirting it into its mouth for a drink. The elephant also uses the trunk to spray its body with water and dirt, protecting the skin from insect bites and exposure to the sun.
The bulls have a pair of upper, ever-growing tusks extending on either side of the trunk. Female African elephants grow tusks while female Asians do not.
An elephant's teeth are used for grinding vegetation. Six large ridged molars are located in each half of the upper and lower jaws, but only used one at a time. Forming a succession at the back of the jaw, the teeth move forward and push out teeth that are worn out or broken. When the last molar moves forward, at the age of 28-30, it must last the rest of the elephant's life (up to 60 or 70 years). Otherwise, the animal can no longer chew effectively and may starve.
An elephant walks on its toes. The sole of each foot is made of thick elastic pads which flatten to form a flexible pad with each step. Nails are located on the front of the foot.
Elephants are the largest land animals in the world. They have the biggest brain (12 lbs.), the thickest skin (1 inch), and an elephant's trunk is the longest nose (8 feet). An elephant's waistline is about 16 feet.
After a 22-month pregnancy, a female gives birth to a single calf that weights more than 200 pounds. In the close-knit herd baby elephants grow up surrounded by family members who cooperate and care for them. With their protectors close by, young elephants spend their days exploring and playing. Elephant herds are made up of closely related female and their babies, led by the oldest female, the matriarch. Through years of experience, she knows the best places to find food and avoid danger. Young male elephants leave the family group when they become teenagers.
Baby elephants may suck their trunks, as human babies suck their thumbs. Baby elephants also have milk tusks that fall out when they are about a year old.
Elephants communicate with body language and a variety of vocalizations--rumbles, trumpets, squeals, squeaks, snorts, and some sounds too low for humans to hear.
Asian elephants occupy forests and semi-open or dense scrub with access to water and shade. They live in Sri Lanka, India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Burma, Malaysia, and Sumatra. The African elephant lives in the savannah, dense scrub, and forest areas of central, southern, and eastern Africa.
Habitat destruction in Africa and Asia, coupled with the demands of the ivory trade, threaten the survival of both species.