African Elephant (Loxodonta africana)


Class: Mammalia
Order: Proboscidea
Family:    Elephantidae
Size:    Length: 19 to 25 feet (5.8 to 7.6 m)  Height: 8 to 13 feet (2.4 to 4 m) at the shoulder
Weight: Up to 15,400 pounds (6,985 kg)
Diet: Leaves, fruit, branches, twigs, grass, shrubs and bark
Distribution: Africa
Young:  1 calf every 4 to 9 years
Animal Predators:  Lions and spotted hyenas prey on calves
IUCN Status: Endangered
Terms: Male: Bull  Female: Cow  Young: Calf
Lifespan: Up to 70 years



·       Although African elephants are the largest living land mammals, they are also excellent swimmers.

·       The lower lobes of their ears usually have holes or other types of damage.

·       An elephant’s tusks continue to grow throughout its life.

·       When excited or irritated, African elephants, especially the males, can knock down a large tree.



African elephants are similar to their only other living elephant relative, the Asian elephant, but there are physical differences. African elephants are larger in size and have much larger ears. While both male and female African elephants have tusks, only male Asian elephants do. Their feet are thickly padded, allowing them to walk quietly, despite their massive size. 



African elephants can be found in forests, marshes, semi-desert or open grasslands. They are never far from water, because they need to drink daily. Elephants prefer areas that combine grass, low woody plants, and forest.


Feeding Habits

They eat a vegetarian diet of leaves, shrubs, fruit, branches, twigs, grass and bark. Elephants carry food and water to their mouths with their trunks. 



During mating, a cow and bull elephant often separate themselves from the rest of the herd for several days or more. Cows are ready to mate by the time they reach 11 to 15, while bulls are at least twenty before they are capable of contending with the other bulls for the privilege of mating with a cow. The cow will give birth to a calf (twins only occur in up to 1.35% of births) after a pregnancy of 22 months. The baby, who will weigh between 198 and 265 pounds (90 to 120  kg) at birth, can stand within hours and will be able to keep up with the herd in a few days, by holding onto his mother’s tail. Other elephants in the herd become excited when a new baby joins the herd, and the entire herd will wait until the youngster can travel. The calf begins to eat grass in several months, but he also continues to nurse for between three to six years or more before being weaned. Mothers are very affectionate with their young and caress their babies with their trunks. Females stay with the same herd their entire lives, but males are driven out by the females when they reach twelve to fourteen years of age, because they begin to play too roughly around the rest of the herd. A young male may follow the herd for awhile, but eventually goes off on his own. 



Despite their size, elephants are gentle and live peacefully in family groups. Elephants are active both during the day and at night, taking rests at intervals. During the hottest parts of the day, they rest in the shade either by lying down or leaning against a tree or each other, and fan themselves with their ears to cool down. Elephants enjoy bathing every evening—they will totally immerse themselves if they can find deep enough water. If the water is not very deep, elephants take water in their trunk and squirt it over themselves. After bathing, they roll in dirt to protect themselves from insects. When necessary, they can reach speeds of up to 25 miles per hour. Females can be found in herds, numbering from six to 1,000 individuals. Juvenile males may form social groups for short periods, but males usually spend most of their adult lives living alone. When elephants come across a dead elephant, they react in an emotional way, and caress the remains. 



African elephants are listed as Endangered by the IUCN and by the USFWS as Threatened because of illegal hunting for their tusks and loss of habitat.



African Elephant Wildlife Fact File, IM Pub, US