African Elephants The African elephant, (Loxodonta Africana), is also known as the ‘African Bush Elephant’. Both the African Bush Elephant and the African Forest Elephant have usually been classified as a single species, known simply as the African Elephant. However, the African Forest Elephant resides in the Rainforests and the African Bush Elephant lives in the savannas, hence sometimes being called the ‘Savanna Elephant’.
African Elephant Characteristics
An African Elephants neck is quite high and slopes down towards its straight back. African elephants are more wrinkled and have much larger ears than the Asian elephant. In contrast to the Asian elephants protruding forehead, the African elephants forehead is flat without any bumps and slopes down smoothly towards its trunk. Their underlip is short, broad and rounded and both female and male African elephants have tusks which are thick and curved forward. African elephants are also larger in size as compared to male and female Asian elephants.
The largest African elephants recorded weight was over 9 tons and it stood more than 12 feet high at the shoulder. The African elephants average weight is up to 7 tons, about the equivalent of 78 adult human males weighing an average of 90 kilograms each.
African elephants have 4 nails on their fore feet and their hind feet have 3 nails, just like the Asian elephant, however, African elephants have 2 prehensile fingers at the tip of their trunks whereas the Asian elephant only has one.
African elephants are named for the peculiar shaped ridges of their molar teeth. The ridges of an African elephants teeth are coarser and fewer than those of the Asian elephant.
Here are some facts about the anatomy of an African Elephant:
Heart and liver: The elephant heart weights 22 kilograms and circulates about 450 litres of blood. Inner ‘cleaning’ is performed by a 77 kilograms liver.
Water and trunk: To drink its 9 litres of water at a time, the elephant uses its trunk which weighs 113 kilograms.
Tongue: Helping the swallowing process is a 12 kilogram elephant tongue.
Food and intestines: The approximately 250 kilograms food eaten every day passes through 18 metres of intestines. Eventually processed into about 100 kilograms of elephant dung per day. African elephants are herbivorous. Their diet varies according to their habitat. Elephants living in forests, partial deserts and grasslands all eat different proportions of herbs and tree or shrubbery leaves. Elephants inhabiting the shores of Lake Kariba have been recorded eating underwater plant life.
Digestion: Elephants only digest about 40% of what they eat and therefore, they need to spend two-thirds of every day eating.
Gas: An elephant ‘releases’ 2000 litres of methane gas per day.
Skin: An elephants skin weighs 450 – 750 kilograms.
Tail: An elephants tail weighs 11 kilograms.
Fighting: The longest recorded fight between two elephants was recorded at 10 hours and 56 minutes.
Matriarch: Elephant herds consist of females and the young. A herd is led by a matriarch (grandmother). As young males reached maturity they are chased away by the herd. Bull elephants join the herd only for mating.
Gestation: An elephants gestation (conception to birth) is 23 months. Gestation period tends to be slightly longer than in the Asian elephant.
Sound: Most of the communication between elephants occurs at an infra sound level.
Call: It is estimated that an area of 50 square kilometres is filled with particular elephant ‘call’ in infra sound. This might increase to about 300 square kilometres at dusk due to lower temperatures.
Eyes: An elephants eyes are very small in relation to its head. The eye contains very few photoreceptors and they cannot see very well further than a few hundred feet.
Speed: An elephant can walk rather fast and charge even faster.
No jumping: Elephants cannot jump.
Swimming: Elephants love water and are excellent swimmers.
Trunk: An elephants trunk is the most versatile of all mammalian creations being used as a nose, arm, hand and multipurpose tool. It is powerful enough to kill a lion with a single swipe, yet the finger-like lobes at the end are adept enough to pluck a feather from the ground.
Trunk muscles: The trunk is boneless and is composed of an estimated 40 000 muscles.
Tusks: Elephants tusks are elongated upper incisor teeth, which grow continuously throughout the elephants life. They are not always an exact match, as this depends on which side they favour much like left and right-handed humans.
Ears: An elephants ears are covered in veins, which form distinct and unique patterns which can be used to identify individuals – much like human fingerprints. An elephants ears are packed with blood vessels and when flapped, they quickly lower the animals body temperature. This swiftly circulating blood is cooled by about 9 degrees Fahrenheit while in the elephants ear.
The African Bush Elephant is an intelligent animal. Experiments with reasoning and learning show that they are the smartest ungulates together with their Asian cousins. This is mostly due to their large brain.
In most places, the adult African Bush Elephant lacks natural predators thanks to its great size, however, the calves (especially the newborn) are vulnerable to lions and crocodile attacks and (rarely) to leopard and hyena attacks.
African Bush Elephant Conservation Status
While the African elephant is classed as vulnerable, conditions vary somewhat by region within eastern and southern Africa.
In 2006, an elephant slaughter was documented in southeastern Chad by aerial surveys. A series of poaching incidents, resulting in the killing of over 100 elephants, was carried out during the late spring and summer of 2006 in the vicinity of Zakouma National Park. This region has a decades-old history of poaching of elephants, as one of Africa’s big five game, which has caused the elephant population of the region, which exceeded 300,000 in 1970, to drop to approximately 10,000 today. The African elephant officially is protected by Chadian government, but the resources and manpower provided by the government (with some European Union assistance) have proven insufficient to stop the poaching.
Human encroachment into or adjacent to natural areas where bush elephants occur has led to recent research into methods of safely driving groups of elephants away from humans, including the discovery that playback of the recorded sounds of angry honey bees are remarkably effective at prompting elephants to flee an area.