The African Elephant is a magnificent Animal, home to the African continent. Explore this beauty in his natural environment.
After much genetic research, it has been established that the African Elephant is actually a genus to which two species belong: the African Savannah Elephant and the African Forest Elephant. They belong to the Elephantidae family. The two species are very similar but can be distinguished by their size.
The African Savannah Elephant is the absolute biggest land-living animal on our planet. On average an adult weighs between 10,000 – 13,000 lbs, and measures 11 feet at the shoulders. African Forest Elephants on the other hand, are the third largest terrestrial species. They weigh 8,000 lbs at most and have a shoulder height of 8 feet.
Both species have grey hide-like skin which is 1 inch thick. Their tusks on their own even weigh almost as much as a human being, between 110 – 130 lbs, and continue growing throughout their lives. The Savannah Elephant’s tusks are curved, while the Forest Elephant’s are straight.
What would an Elephant be without its trunk? The trunk is an extension of their nose and upper lip and is exceptionally versitile. It is highly sensitive and connected to 40,000 muscles. They use it to pick things up (mostly food), to communicate with one another, when they swim it functions as a snorkel and it can even detect underground water. At its tip there are two finger-like extension, allowing them to skilfully manipulate the smallest of things – even pulling out a tiny thorn from their skin.
Contrary to the Asian Elephant who has fairly small ears, the African Elephant’s ears are huge and coincidentally resemble the shape of the African continent. In hot weather they flap them about to create air flow by the ear’s blood vessels, assisting them with heat loss.
Habitat and Distribution
The two species’ names are indicative of their habitat. The African Savannah Elephant naturally inhabits the Savannah; but likewise woodlands, grasslands and wetlands. A small number is also found in the semi-deserts of Namibia. They are most frequent in the Southern-Eastern part of Africa, with the largest populations living in Zimbabwe, Botswana, South Africa, Kenya and Tanzania.
The African Forest Elephant is solely found in the forests of Central Africa, more specifically in the Congo Basin. They are able to navigate the dense and thick forests here due to their small size (in comparison to the African Savanna Elephant that is). Moreover their total population is smaller as well, out of the entire population of African Elephants the Forest species only make up a quarter.
Before Europeans began colonization of the African continent, disrupting and exploiting all areas of life, the total population of African Elephants included 26 million individuals. After centuries of excessive poaching and destruction of their habitat the number is now down to 400,000. They are large creatures and consequently require large living-spaces, which is why habitat loss particularly affects them. The IUCN labels the Savannah Elephant as endangered, and the Forest Elephant as critically endangered.
African Elephants have a huge impact on the environment they inhabit, which grants them the title of “ecological engineers”. For example, they use their tusks to dig up dried up river beds during particularly scorching weather. This provides not only themselves with a watering hole, but numerous other species. In the Savannah, they uproot trees and other vegetation when feeding, creating an open landscape which is required by many other species, e.g the Zebra. Additionally, they spread seeds through their droppings.
Seeing as they live in such a hot climate they need ways to escape the heat. African Elephants cover themselves in mud to cool themselves down, and oce it’s dried it acts as sun block and offers protection from the harsh sun.
African Elephants are herbivores and munch on bark, fruit, roots, grasses and leaves. Being huge animals, naturally they need huge amounts of food to clench their appetite – eating as much as 300 lbs in one day.
Moreover, their big stomachs become a big problem to farmers: African Elephants can devour a whole harvest’s worth of food during one night. As a consequence, local populations become hostile towards the African Elephant
This causes conflict between humans and the African Elephant, which leads to a higher rate of poaching.
In order to satisfy their daily food quota they roam over vast distances.
Mating and Life Cycle
Although they get about 10 new sets of teeth throughout their lives, they eventually die of starvation when their last set has disintegrated.
Extremely slow reproduction rate, another reason their threatened by endangerment.
Fun Facts – That We Bet You Didn’t Know
#1 African Elephants only sleep for about 2 hours per day.
#2 Largest land animal in the entire world.
#3 They can walk between 37 countries on the African continent.
Thank you for reading about the African Elephant. We hope you enjoyed the article. Also have a look at our other mammal articles, or Animals in Africa.
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