Female elephants, "cows", tend to live in groups of ten
and up led by
an older elephant whilst males prefer to live on their own after
reaching puberty at around 14yrs though spending some time with
other "bulls". After mating, gestation is 22 months.
Females give birth to calves one every few years during their
most fertile years (25-45yrs) and at birth these calves are
already 3ft tall, weighing 200 lbs. They are looked after by
the female group who all learn parenting skills!
For obvious reasons, elephants are closely associated with
their 6ft long 309lb trunks, a fifth 'limb' that contains some 100,000
muscles ~ but no bones ~ that has two small opposable "fingers" at its end which are used to
control small objects. The trunk is used for breathing and
smelling just like a human nose, but also for drinking,
trumpeting and grabbing objects as well as being used as a
weapon and as part of the elephant's mating ritual.
Like humans, dolphins and apes,
elephants are intelligent creatures with a brain as structured
and complex as a human one. Certainly they have demonstrated
evidence of play, humour, self-awareness, memory, language and
grief. They communicate using their ears as expressions but
also by 'rumbling'; the emitting of low octave sounds below
human hearing range which can be heard from up to six miles
Whilst the elephant does not have
any animal predators not least because its the world's largest
mammal, although lions may prey on the young or
weak, their greatest threat is from man who poaches them for
their ivory tusks and alleged global warming which is
threatening to heat up their natural habitats leading to
poorer foraging conditions.
There were some 3-5 million
elephants across Africa last century, however the loss of
100,000 each year to hunting prior to the imposition of an
international ban on ivory trading from 1990 has seen their population decline
with the African elephant now being classified a 'threatened
species.' It is currently estimated there are 450,000 - 700,000
elephants in Africa and illegal poaching continues.
Now check out our LIVE elephant
webcam broadcasting from Tembe National Park in South Africa