Elephants are the largest land mammals in the world; their appearance is characterized by a long trunk, large ears and tusks. All these parts are functional body parts of an elephant as the trunk serves the purpose of picking food from hard to reach places and putting it in its mouth, and also drinking water (or splashing it all over their bodies during playtime).
The signature tusks on an elephant grow throughout out their lives, although growth may be disrupted by breaking or gradual wear and tear. Male elephants carry larger tusks than those of females.
The ears of an elephant act like a fan, helping to cool the large animal. Behind the elephant’s ears, blood vessels act like a cooling system for the elephant. Because of its thick skin, an elephant cannot regulate its body temperature very well. To compensate for this, the back of elephant’s ears is concentrated with a network of arteries and veins, which help to cool of the blood with the almost constant ears flap movement
An elephants habitat is largely determined by the availability of food, water and shade in any given area. Large populations of elephants can be found in the Caprivi and northern parts of Botswana- especially in the Chobe region which is known to have the largest elephant population in the world. Elephant populations extend to the Aha Hills in the western Okavango, the northern parts of Makgadikgadi, Tuli Block and Mmadinare.
More modest populations of elephants can also be found in the Mopane Woodland on the eastern part of the Makgadikgadi and the Botetu River.
Elephants live in family groups; each family group is lead by an elder female known as the Matriarch and also consists of her offspring and other related elephants. Elephant families may join with other family groups to form herds, sometimes numbering up to 100. Herds gather mostly at times when there is plenty food or water available. Elephants are some of the few animals that live in matriarchal societies. That is they are led by a female, usually the oldest and wisest of the group. This group will usually comprise of females and calf’s which are related somehow. Once males reach their early teens 12 – 13 years of age they will get kiked out of the heards. They might wonder alone for a short while until they join small bands of much older males
Elephants are active both at night and during the day, although periods of rest are taken in shady areas. These animals are quite docile by nature, but when wounded, ill or protecting its young from danger, elephants can get very dangerous. Males in musth must be avoided at all costs.
|Setswana name: Tlou
Scientific name: Loxodonta africana
|Male: tail 1.5m; shoulder height 3.2-4.0m; mass 5000-6300kg
|Female: tail 1.5m: shoulder height 2.5-3.4m; mass 2 800-3500kg
|Identification pointers: Massive size; long trunk; usually carries tusks; larger ears. Cannot be mistaken for any other species.
Elephants are herbivores and feed on a variety of plants. An adult elephant can eat up to 300kg per day!
An elephant’s gestation period is 22 months; the average weight of a newborn elephant is 120kg. A Newborn elephant has a pink/grey hue and are much hairier than adults. Female elephants are notoriously protective of their young, and will even assume responsibility of another cow’s young by way of nursing and protecting should anything happen to the ‘birth mother.’
When they reach sexual maturity. Once or twice a year male elephants go into a breeding condition called musth. (this is a hindu word meaning crazy) this is a condition in which the bull produces larger than normal testosterone which make them very aggressive. The bull will go in search of a female heard and he will wealk around testing for a female that is ready to mate/in heat. She will then decide if he is worthy of her and allow him to mate with her
Poaching of elephants for their ivory tusks is a problem which affects the population. In addition, growing human populations into elephants’ natural habitats creates conflict resulting in killing of elephants and depletion of their natural habitat.
Closest relative: dassie/hyrax