elephant (African Loxodonta) is the largest land animal on Earth, and they are also one of the most unique-looking animals. With their characteristic long noses, or trunks; large, flexible ears; and wide and thick legs, there is no other animal with a similar physique.

The elephant is quite a familiar animal.


African and Asian elephants are the only surviving members of the Proboscis Order. Historically, elephants were classified into two species, the african elephants (Loxodonta africana) Y Asian (The largest elephant). However, genetic research has provided new insight into the 'relationship' between the elephant and taxonomic classification at the subspecies level.

The classification of the African elephant is an ongoing investigation. Preliminary genetic studies have indicated that there are at least two subspecies of African elephants, namely de Savannah (African Loxodonta africana) and the forest elephants (Loxodonta africana cyclotis). However, the taxonomy of elephants may diversify even further in the future, as genetic and phylogenetic research indicates additional subspecies. Forest and savanna elephants are distinguished by their geographic distribution and various physical characteristics.

  • The african elephants They live in the sub-Saharan regions of Africa. The elephant of the savannahAfrican Loxodonta africana) resides in the savannas and herbaceous plains of eastern and South Africa. The forest elephants (Loxodonta africana cyclotis) inhabit forested regions of central and western Africa.
  • savanna elephant it is larger than the forest subspecies. In fact, it is the largest land animal in the world.

There are four recognized subspecies of Asian elephants, the subspecies Sri Lankan (Anopheles gambiae biggest biggest), the subspecies of the continent (Elephas maximus indicus), the subspecies from Borneo (Elephas maximus borneensis) and the subspecies from Sumatra (Anopheles gambiae snmatranns). However, the taxonomy of elephants may diversify even further in the future, as genetic and phylogenetic research indicates additional subspecies. The three subspecies are differentiated by their geographic distribution and various physical characteristics.

  • The asian elephants They inhabit the southern, eastern, and southeastern parts of Asia. He indian elephant (em indicns) has the widest distribution, extending between the southern and southeastern regions of Asia. The Sumatra elephants (em snmatrensis) Y Sri Lankan (em biggest) inhabit Sumatra and the southwestern parts of Sri Lanka respectively. The borneo elephants They inhabit the Sabah, Malaysia and Kalimantan regions of Borneo.
  • Sri Lankan elephant it is the largest of the three subspecies of Asian elephants.
  • The subspecies of borneo elephant It was identified in 2003 based on mitochondrial DNA research that genetically distinguished them from other Asian subspecies. They are the smallest in size and have the longest tail of the four species, often touching the ground.



The African elephant is the mammal Largest of all land animals, adult males weigh between 1.800 and 6.300 kg (2 and 7 tons). The females are smaller, weighing between 2.700 and 3.600 kg (3 and 4 tons). The height of the shoulders ranges between three and four meters.

The adult male Asian elephant weighs between 1.800 and 4.500 kg (2 and 5 tons / 4.000 and 10.000 lb.), while the females weigh slightly less. The height of the shoulders ranges between 2 and 3,5 meters.

French horn

The elephant's trunk is an extension of the upper lip and nose. It is used to grasp, breathe, feed, dust, smell, drink, lift, produce sound / communicate, defend / protect itself, and feel.

The trunk contains approximately 100.000 muscles and tendons in the trunk, giving it extreme flexibility and strength. Elephant trunks are capable of expanding, contracting and moving in a wide range of directions.

The Asian elephants have a finger-shaped projection on the tip of their trunks and African elephants have two. These finger-like projections have many sensitive nerve endings and are capable of developing fine motor skills, such as grasping small, delicate objects.

An adult Asian elephant can hold up to 8 liters of water in its trunk. Water is sprayed into the mouth to drink and onto the back to keep it cool.

Elephants' trunks and keen sense of smell are used to observe the environment. They elevate the trunk, inhale and bypass the air to collect odor particles. Through the trunk, the aromatic particles are transported to a specialized gland called Jacobson's organ, located in the upper part of the mouth. Jacobson's organ is capable of gathering information about the elephant's environment by detecting and analyzing molecules and particles in the air. Through this process, elephants are able to locate water sources up to 19,2 km away and can even determine the reproductive status of distant elephants.

Elephants can reach vegetation up to 5,7 m in height by rising on their hind legs and spreading their trunk.

Tiny sensory hairs that extend the length of the elephant's trunk increase its sensitivity. These tiny hairs facilitate tactile communication during courtship and when caring for children.

Large elephant trunks are very powerful, capable of uprooting an entire tree trunk, knocking down heavy branches, and delivering a forceful blow in self-defense.

Why are elephants' ears so big?

Elephants' ears are about one-sixth the size of their entire body and function primarily as a cooling mechanism. The ears contain extensive networks of tiny blood vessels, which are visible on the outer margins, where the skin is only one to two mm thick. Warm blood cools as it circulates through the vessels in the ear, due to the thin layer of skin that separates it from the outside air. The cooler blood then circulates back into the body, helping to reduce the elephant's overall body temperature.

The size of elephant ears is proportional to their geographic distribution. The closer to the equator the elephant is, the larger the ears, allowing more heat to dissipate (remove) from the body, and therefore have larger ears. African elephants live closest to the equator and have the largest ears, followed by Asian elephants. The now extinct woolly mammoth, lived near the North Pole, and had smaller ears.

Elephants use their ears to channel sound waves from the environment, which contributes to their keen sense of hearing.


Both African and Asian elephants have a total of 26 teeth, including two upper incisors (tusks), 12 premolars (non-permanent teeth similar to milk teeth), and 12 molars. Asian elephants have smaller tusks than African elephants and female elephants have smaller tusks than males.

Each tusk of an adult male elephant weighs between 50 and 79 kg and a tusk of an adult female weighs between 18 and 20 kg. One of the heaviest tusks ever weighed was over 100kg.

African elephants have diamond-shaped ridges on their molars, while Asian elephants have long cylindrical ridges on theirs. The ridges help the elephants to shred the vegetation of the course.

Most mammals replace the teeth of the cheek (premolars and molars) vertically. The new tooth develops and replaces the old one, from above in the upper jaw and from below in the lower jaw. In the case of elephants, the replacement of the cheek teeth is a horizontal process. New teeth develop in the back of the mouth and progress forward until they wear out in the front.

Each molar tooth is about the size of a brick and weighs between 1.8 and 2.0 kg. Elephant molars are replaced six times during its useful life.

Elephants are born with temporary incisors (tusks) that are replaced by permanent tusks between 6 and 13 months of age. The permanent tusks grow continuously at a rate of about 17 cm per year, reaching lengths of up to 3,5 m for adult male African elephants.

The upper third of an elephant's tusk, where it is embedded in the upper jaw bone, is mostly hollow and carries a single nerve. The upper third inlaid part of the tusk functions as an anchor when digging and uprooting vegetation and aids defense.

Elephant ivory is distinguished from other animal dentures by its unique cross-sectional pattern. An elephant tusk cross section shows diamond-shaped grooves, called "motor twists," and is unique to elephants.

Like humans, elephants can be "left-handed or right-handed," meaning there is a preference for using one tusk over the other. As a result, one canine may be more worn than the other.

Muscle Gland / Temporal Gland

Asian and African elephants have a muscular gland located just below the surface of the skin, halfway between the eye and the ear on either side of the head.

The muscular gland can be associated with sexual activity and / or communication.

Annually, the muscle glands secrete a dark, oily, musky substance and become inflamed. This physiological change is associated with a behavior observed in male elephants.


The skeleton of an elephant's leg is angled, with a large pad of fat and connective tissue on the heel. The angular structure of the foot means that elephants walk on tiptoe with their body weight evenly distributed through the fatty / connective tissue in the heel. Example: An adult male Asian elephant 2,88 m tall and weighing approximately 4.167 kg distributes only 3,8 kg of weight per square centimeter on its heels.

The unique structure of the elephant's leg allows safe movement over rough and swampy terrain.


The elephant's skin is wrinkled in appearance, African elephants are more wrinkled than Asian elephants. Wrinkles act as a cooling mechanism by increasing the surface area of ​​the skin. Additional skin and wrinkles trap moisture, which then takes longer to evaporate. Therefore, wrinkles keep elephants fresher, longer, than if they had smooth skin.

Asian elephants are less wrinkled in appearance than African elephants because they primarily inhabit wooded habitats. Temperatures are not as high in forested areas, reducing the need for forest-dwelling elephants to cool down.

The elephant's skin can be up to 3,8 cm thick in certain places. However, the skin is sensitive to the touch, detecting insects and changes in its environment.

The combination of thick skin and a thin layer of fat under the skin allows the elephant to tolerate cold temperatures.

The general coloration of the elephants' skin is gray. However, Asian elephants have a freckled appearance due to the various depigmentation patches, especially on the trunk.


Elephant hair is sparse and unevenly distributed on the body, with the most notable concentrations around the eyes, ear openings, chin, and tail.

Young elephants are hairier than adults and their hair is reddish-brown. As they mature, the amount of hair reduces and darkens.

Internal organs

  • Brain: Elephants have the largest brain of all land mammals, weighing between 4,5 and 5,5 kg.
    Elephants have highly developed brains and cerebellums, parts of the brain involved in movement and muscle coordination.
    Elephants have large temporal lobes - portions of the brain that facilitate memory.
    Elephants have excellent long-term memory and are able to recall experiences for long periods of time. Research has shown that elephants are able to recognize other herd members decades after they last interacted with them.
  • Heart: The average weight of the heart of an elephant is 12 to 21 kg and comprises about 0.5% of the total body weight of the animal.
    Elephants have an atypical heart. Most mammals, including humans, have a single-pointed apex at the base (heart-shaped). Elephants have a two-pointed apex at the base, diminishing the heart-shaped appearance and giving it a more circular shape.
  • Stomach and intestines: Elephants have a cylindrical stomach. The stomach works primarily in storing food. Digestion takes place in the cecum (pouch connected to the large intestine). The combined length of the small and large intestines is approximately 35 m.
  • Lungs: Most mammals breathe air by expanding their chest, through muscular action. When the chest expands, a membrane (visceral pleura) attached to the lungs remains immobile while another membrane (parietal pleura) attached to the chest wall expands outward. The fluid-filled space between the two membranes is called Pleural cavity, which widens during the expansion of the thorax. The widened pleural cavity helps create a vacuum-like effect, allowing air to be drawn into the lungs.
    This process differs in elephants because they do not have a pleural cavity. Your lungs are directly attached to the chest wall and therefore rely on direct muscle action to expand the lungs. This direct muscle control allows you to breathe underwater using your trunk like a snorkel.



Elephant eyes are approximately 3,8 cm in diameter and their vision is moderate. Elephants traverse forests, savannas, and grasslands, orienting themselves mainly with the trunk, as opposed to sight.

Ex: There have been documented cases of herds of elephants being led by a blind member. The complete lack of vision did not prevent the blind member from fulfilling his role as leader.

Elephants have long eyelashes to help keep sand, dirt, and debris from flying out of their eyes.

In addition to the upper and lower lids, elephants have a "third eyelid" that moves vertically across the eye. These eyelids work to protect the eye when feeding, bathing, and dusting (cooling). See the behavior section.

Some elephants develop a white ring that surrounds the iris as they mature. This ring is similar to an age ring that can develop in humans (as they age) called arcus lipoides, and it does not affect vision.

The eyes of an elephant are located on the sides of the head and therefore provide better peripheral vision (angle of vision that extends from the sides to the back), rather than binocular vision (eyes located in the front of the face, in which the fields of view overlap, creating depth perception).


Elephants have good hearing, detecting sounds as low as 14 to 16 hz (human low range: 20 hz) and as high as 12,000 hz (human high range: 20,000).

Elephants frequently use infrasonic sounds, which are sounds emitted below the human auditory range, in long-distance communication. Research has shown that elephants are able to recognize the calls and voices of particular individuals at a distance of 1 to 1,5 km.

The elephant's ears are used to channel sound waves from the environment, which contributes to its keen sense of hearing.

In general, animals with large heads and wide ears are better suited to hearing low-frequency sounds because the larger skull encompasses longer ear canals, wider tympanic membranes (membrane that separates the middle ear from the outside), and larger middle ears. .


Elephants have a keen sense of smell, detecting sources of water up to 19,2 miles away.

The nostrils are located at the tip of the trunk and work by breathing, smelling and sucking in water to squirt into the mouth. The elephants' sense of smell is in constant use, with the trunks moving from side to side, detecting new smells and information.

Once a fragrance is inhaled through the nostrils, there are a series of seven olfactory turbines, located in the nasal cavity. Turbines are curls of bone that have millions of olfactory receptor cells associated with them.

If the smell does not provide enough information, elephants can pick up the substance with their trunks. The chemical information is then transmitted to the Jacobson's organ, a chemical sensing unit located in the soft tissue of the upper palate (palate). The organ is attached to the oral / nasal cavities and works primarily to detect a woman's heat (reproductive) status. This behavior is known as the Flehmen's answer and is characterized by the elephant winding its trunk in its mouth.


Elephants are very tactile in nature. Elephants use all parts of their body to interact with each other in all forms of behavior, including parenting, playful, aggressive, defensive, exploratory, sexual, and anti-predator.

The trunk is one of the most tactile appendages that elephants have. It is used for stroking, touching, exploring, caressing or reassuring in caring and can also be used to slap or block in defense or domination situations.

The tube is so sensitive to the touch that it is able to perceive pressure differences as a light 0,25 mm in depth, which is equivalent to a light brush against the skin.

The strength of an elephant's trunk is capable of lifting weights in excess of 250 kg.

Elephants' trunks have extensive sensory motor cells, called corpúsculos pacinianos, which allow them to have a strong sense of touch. Pacinian corpuscles are composed of concentric membranes of connective tissue, similar to the layers of an onion. Between each layer of connective tissue is a viscous gel. When movement or vibration is detected, the pressure deforms the gel and connective tissue layers of the pacinian corpuscles. This stimulates the nerve endings and sends a signal to the brain.

Pacinian corpuscles are also found on the soles of elephants' legs, helping in the detection of seismic vibrations (tremor, vibratory movement of the Earth).

Many animals, including elephants, survived the 2004 Asian tsunami. These animals are believed to have given advance warning of the tsunami due to the detection of seismic vibrations. The approaching vibrations from the tsunami were detected by the Pacinian corpuscles at the elephant's feet and alerted them to the approaching storm.

The elephant uses mud to keep cool.


The social structure of elephants is complex, varying according to gender and population dynamics. Adult elephants form matriarchal societies (led by women). Adult males are usually alone.


Adult male elephants are solitary in nature but can associate with other adult males in small, unstable groups. Males leave the family unit (natal unit) between 12 and 15 years of age.

Elephants that associate in small groups have a hierarchical social structure. Leaders, determined by age and strength, protect the front and rear of the herd. The more docile (calm in nature) do not seek leadership roles, but serve as stabilizing members within the group. Hierarchical roles are reestablished and readjusted each time a male leaves or enters the group.

Although they are mainly solitary, they are associated with nonnatal family units (family units with which they are not related). Adult elephants have no preferences for specific family units and they randomly move to different groups daily and even hourly in search of females receptive to reproduction. The nomadic (wandering) social system of elephants allows them to maximize their reproductive potential. With this system, a single elephant can find up to 30 pairs in a year, rather than sire four calves in three years, if it is associated with a single family unit.


The female social structure is similar to that of concentric rings, with the innermost circle comprising a family unit of related adult females. Family units vary in size from three to 25 individuals; including the older and more dominant female called the matriarch, her adult daughters and their young, and a number of juveniles. From this stable nucleus, the groupings expand to include less familiar individuals.

Matriarchs / State of Hierarchy

The oldest and most dominant female is called a matriarch. The matriarch is the backbone of the elephant family unit because she provides stability and determines rank patterns for the rest of the family.

The other females that make up the family unit are usually the matriarch's daughters and their young. The hierarchical classification of these women is based on leadership, experience and age. Generally, the older the female, the higher her position.

The main function of elephant family units is the protection and rearing of calves. Adult females cooperate in assisting calf movements, foraging, protection, and social experiences. The survival of female elephants increases enormously with the increase in the number of females caring for each other.

Units in an elephant family can have consistent and friendly interactions with other units. These associated families are called kinship or bond groups, and they mix, feed, and interact with each other frequently. The linking groups can be composed of unrelated females or related females.

Under ideal environmental circumstances, households can congregate in groups of up to six families. Occasionally, there may be herd aggregations ranging from 500 to 1,000 individuals around wells of water and other consolidated resources. Herd aggregations have also been documented in areas of intense poaching (illegal hunting) pressure.

Large congregations of elephants occur more frequently with African than Asian elephants. In regions with less food, smaller elephant family units are found. In regions with an abundance of food, larger social groups are formed.

Social behavior


Male elephants assess the strength of others through combat or play. The level of dominance is closely related to the size, power and weight of the animal. As they mature, these characteristics increase.

Adult males are particularly dominant and those that are not and younger males avoid confrontations with them.

Grief behavior

The complex nature of the elephant's social structure extends to the grieving behavior of deceased companions. When elephants come across the dead remains of other elephants, there is a silent pause, as the remains are touched with their trunks.

Occasionally fangs or bones are carried with them, as the herd continues to travel.

Individual behavior

Bath and dust

Bathing appears to be pleasant and essential for elephants. The trunk is used like a hose to spray water all over the body. To help protect the skin from parasites and biting insects, elephants roll in mud or sprinkle their wet skin with dust. Once the mud and dust are dry, the elephants rub themselves against a hard surface, removing most of the parasites.


Elephants sleep about four hours a night. About two hours of that are spent on their feet. During deep sleep, individuals lie on their sides, breathe loudly, and sometimes snore.


A maximum speed of 30 km / h over short distances has been recorded for elephants.

Elephants have been described as having an (easy) amble walk at a normal pace of six to eight km / h.

Demonstrations of strength

Young and strong elephants test their strength by pushing over the trees. A tree with a circumference of 45 cm can be easily pushed with just the head, the trunk or the front leg.

While many strong elephants like to test their strength by pushing over the trees, only one or two elephants in a group will make it a specialty. Experts can cut down trees up to 150 cm in circumference.


Elephants are twilight in nature, mainly active at dawn and dusk (twilight hours) when the environment is cooler.


African elephants inhabit a wide variety of habitats, including rainforests, savannas, grasslands, and woodlands.

Tropical forests are characterized by having little variation in temperature (around 23 ° C) and in the duration of daylight (around 12 hours). However, rainfall varies considerably in the tropics and is a primary factor in the type of vegetation that grows in an area.

The sheets they are characterized by being meadows with widely scattered trees. They generally have different dry and rainy seasons.

  • Dry season: Usually between June and November.
  • Rainy season: Usually from October to December and from March to June.

Grasslands are characterized by cold temperatures in winter. Seasonal droughts, occasional fires, and grazing by large mammals prevent woody shrubs and trees from establishing themselves. Grassland soil is very rich in nutrients and the roots of perennial grasslands are often deeply rooted.

Asian elephants mainly inhabit tropical forest habitats.


  • African elephants have a sub-Saharan distribution, with forest elephants primarily inhabiting western and central Africa and savanna elephants inhabiting eastern and southern regions.
  • Range States of the forest elephant (Lacyclotis): Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Congo, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Equatorial Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Nigeria, Niger, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Togo and Uganda
  • Range States of the savanna elephant (Laafricana): Angola, Botswana, Burundi, Chad, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Rwanda, Somalia, Sudafrica, Sudan, Swazilandia, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
  • The asian elephants they inhabit the southern, eastern and southeastern parts of Asia.
  • Range States of the indian elephant (Emindicus): Bangladesh, Bhutan, Borneo (Brunei Darussalam, Malaysia and Indonesia), Camboya, China, India, RDP Lao, Peninsular Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Vietnam.
  • Range States of the Sumatra elephant (Emsumatrensis): Sumatra Island
  • Range States of the Sri Lankan elephant (Emmaximus): The southwestern part of Sri Lanka.

Distribution range

Elephants are not territorial. The range of distribution in the home is between 10 and 70 km2 and possibly greater, depending on herd size and seasonality.

Cloud ERP Implementation

Both Asian and African elephants migrate and generally follow the same migration routes annually. Migration distances vary considerably depending on environmental conditions. During a prolonged dry season in Africa, elephant migration distances of more than 100 km were recorded. Studies documenting the presence of Asian elephants in the deciduous forests of southern India, with numerous water sources, reported that the migration of elephants extends between 20 and 50 km.

African elephants usually migrate at the beginning of the dry season, between June and November; they head to more hospitable places near rivers and water sources that are not prone to drying up. When the rainy season arrives, usually from October to December and March to June, the herds of elephants return to the native regions to feed on the lush, green vegetation that the rains helped to regenerate. Elephant migration allows time for vegetation to regrow in depleted grazing areas.

Elephant migrations occur in one of three ways. The migration method depends on the environmental conditions.

  • Individual family groups are separated from the larger herd. This method can be used in response to food shortages during dry season migration. If food sources are scarce along the migration route, it is more efficient to travel as individual families than as large herds. Family groups that travel this way are generally led by a dominant female at the front of the group and another at the rear, to protect the rear. The young travel among the dominant females for protection and supervision.
  • Several family groups, usually between two and five, they can form a larger group called groups of ties for migration. Bonus pools provide additional security due to more watchful eye games. Women share leadership and supervisory responsibilities based on age, experience, and temperament. These groups need more food resources along the migration route, but benefit from greater protection.
  • Occasionally, entire populations of elephant herds unite in mass migration, with estimates of up to 500 reported individuals. This method provides maximum protection for herds, but food resources must be present along the migration route in sufficient quantity.


Elephants eat between 149 and 169 kg of vegetation daily.

Sixteen to eighteen hours, or almost 80% of an elephant's day is spent feeding. Elephants consume grasses, small plants, shrubs, fruits, twigs, tree bark, and roots.

Tree bark is the elephants' favorite food source. Contains calcium and forage, which helps digestion. The tusks are used to carve into the trunk and tear off strips of bark.

Elephants require 68.4 to 98.8 liters of water daily, but can consume up to 152 liters. An adult male elephant can drink up to 212 liters of water in less than five minutes.

To supplement the diet, elephants excavate the earth for salt and minerals. The fangs are used to shake the ground. The elephant then places dislodged pieces of soil in its mouth to obtain nutrients. These areas often result in holes several feet deep and vital minerals are made accessible to other animals.

Example: Over time, African elephants have hollowed out deep caverns in the side of a volcano on the border with Uganda, to obtain salt flats and minerals. The hills have been carved out by Asian elephants in India and Sumatra in search of salt and minerals. These areas carved into the landscape provide valuable food and shelter resources for a diverse range of native wildlife.

The females are responsible for the education of the young.


The carnivores (meat eaters) such as leones, hyenas y Crocodiles they can feed on young, sick, orphaned or injured elephants.

Humans are the greatest threat to all elephant populations.


Females are reproductively receptive for about three weeks, but conception is only possible three to five days of that time.

Reproductive receptivity is often shown in females by increased interest and enthusiasm when approaching a male and / or exhibiting a caminata estral. Receptive females may also exhibit a stark walk, characterized by holding their head high and frequently looking over their shoulders. Sterile (reproductively receptive) females will also vocalize at this time. These sounds travel long distances and help elephants that are at great distances to locate the female.

Competition for potential mates is resolved through a test of strength, usually pushing, fangs, wrestling, and ramming. The weaker of the two is forced to withdraw and renounces the female's mating rights. Rarely do these mating fights turn brutal, as they are a quick assessment of strength and virility.

Males assess a female's reproductive status by examining her urine for hormones. Chemical information is collected through the tube, blown into the roof of the mouth, and then detected by the Jacobson's organ in the upper palate of the mouth.

Successive mating occurs briefly from a few hours to four days. Males generally stay with the female after mating to prevent them from mating with other males.


Both African and Asian elephants have a gestation period of almost two years (20-22 months).

By the third month of pregnancy, the pup's ears, trunk and tail are present.

As the time to give birth approaches, the female will seek close contact with another female in her household to protect herself during labor.

Sometimes the whole family unit revolves around a female giving birth, protecting her from all sides.

Females give birth standing up. The labor itself lasts only a few minutes.

A single calf is usually born head and forelegs first. Twins have been documented, but they are extremely rare.

Mothers will consume the placenta to avoid detection by predators.

Calves at birth

On average, newborn calves are approximately 9 meters tall and weigh 120 kg at birth. Newborn male African elephants can weigh up to 165 kg. Newborn Asian elephant calves weigh around 91 kg.

The newborn is helped to stand up by its mother and other females. Calves are able to stand up on their own within minutes of being born.

The mother and other females help guide the calf to suckle almost immediately. The calf's trunk is still short, so it uses its mouth to suckle.

Calves can walk between one and two hours after they are born.

In two days, the calves are strong enough to join the rest of the herd, who are patiently waiting nearby.

We can distinguish a small elephant calf.

Development and education

Mothers, aunts, sisters and the matriarch are very important for the development of calves. The pace of the herd is adjusted so that the young can keep up. Calves learn which plants are edible and how to acquire them by observing their elders. Mothers and aunts are in almost constant emotional contact with the young, offering guidance and assistance.

Calves are suckled for the first six months of life. Elephant milk is high in fat and protein (100 times more than the protein contained in cow's milk).

On average, calves drink around 10 liters a day.

Calves begin to experiment with their developing tubes between four and six months of age, collecting grasses and leaves to supplement their diet. Weaning from milk gradually follows this process. Calves are not fully weaned until they are over two years old and can weigh between 850-900 kg.

Duration of labor

Elephants have a birth interval of about one year. Females can have up to 12 young in their lifetime.


The half-life of elephants is about 65 years or more.

The first year of life for an elephant calf is the most vulnerable time, with mortality rates exceeding 30%.

State of conservation

IUCN / The World Conservation Union is a non-governmental organization founded in 1948 that supports the conservation of living wild resources. The IUCN Red List has classified all subspecies of Asian elephants as Endangered (EN) in all parts of their range and African elephants as Threatened (NT).

Relationship with humans

Throughout history, the size, strength and agility of elephants have been used by humans in various capacities.

Adult male elephants have been used in military combat by many armies including the Persian Empire, the armies of the Indian subcontinent, and the troops of Alexander the Great.

Elephants are capable of supporting loads of up to 500 kg in weight. This great force has allowed humans to carry heavy loads over mountainous terrain that is inaccessible to motorized vehicles. The logging industry has also benefited from the strength of the hardworking elephants. Before mechanized transport, elephants carried massive loads of trees, weighing more than four tons (around 4000kg), to nearby rivers, where the cargo was transported to the respective seaports. Today, timber thieves, bulldozers, and four-wheel drive vehicles have greatly reduced the need for the employment of elephants.

The owners of the fields have used elephants to help with strenuous agricultural tasks, such as plowing and pulling water carts.

The tourism industry has used elephants to enhance the overall visitor experience. Tourists get a raised seat on the back of an elephant to experience wildlife deep in the jungles and savannas.

Elephants are revered in many cultures. Elephants dressed for ceremonies frequently participate in ceremonies, festivals and cultural rituals.

Dangers of the relationship with humans

The main threats to elephant populations today are habitat loss / fragmentation and poaching.

Elephants may require a few hundred to a few thousand square kilometers of habitat as a range. With the increase in human settlements, the migration routes of elephants have been severely obstructed.

Poaching for ivory

Elephants have long been hunted for the ivory in their tusks. Some African tribes have used the water-absorbing properties of ivory as indicators of rainfall. However, the greatest use of ivory is to carve and create billiard balls, piano keys, bagpipes, buttons, and ornamental objects. In 1988, the price of ivory ranged from $ 200 to $ 300 per kilogram.

The poaching of elephants is currently illegal. However, as long as there is a demand for ivory, poaching will continue. Today, it is estimated that around 70.000 African elephants die annually from the ivory trade. Some of this ivory comes from legal sources, such as slaughter (legalized killing), but around 80% is derived from poached tusks.

Poaching has led to the indiscriminate hunting of elephants of all ages, resulting in a decrease in the average size of the tusks of the surviving elephant calves. The average tusk weight of an African elephant in 1982 was 9,7 kg. The average weight of the tusk in 1988 was 5.9 kg. In 1990, the average weight was 3 kg. In 2004, the average weight was 3,6 kg.

The main importing nations for ivory are Japan, Hong Kong, the United States, and several European countries.

Unfortunately, the home of the elephants can also provide retreats for armed opposition groups during times of war and political unrest. This adversely affects populations of elephants and other animals by reducing the number of areas in which they can safely live. Funding for some civil wars is obtained partially from the sale of poached ivory.

Impact of poaching

Survival is a great challenge for young orphans due to the sociological importance of maternal education. Lack of guidance, leadership, and experience make young orphans more susceptible to predators, injury, and disease.

Abnormal behaviors can develop in orphaned elephant calves that have not benefited from adequate maternal care. Documented behaviors include abnormal aggressiveness, including fatal seizures, and reproductive inexperience.

Loss of habitat

Elephant ranges in Africa and Asia are increasingly coming into contact with human settlements, leading to the Human-Elephant Conflict (CHE). Every year the CHE poses a serious threat to both humans and elephants.

The rapid growth and development of the human population has fragmented many elephant habitats, thus compressing populations into smaller areas. Due to the high dietary needs of elephants, fragmented habitats can be overexploited and damaged.

Habitat fragmentation reduces opportunities for reproduction, thus decreasing populations and limiting genetic variability.

Crop damage

As the human and elephant populations get closer together, there is an increase in crop invasions by elephants. Crops provide a dense amount of food in an area and are convenient for elephants. A herd of elephants can meet all its food needs for 24 hours by spending only seven or eight hours in a cultivated field.

Many farm owners can lose an entire year's crop in a single night from these forays, in addition to risking starvation for themselves and their families. A herd of 20 elephants can eat and trample two hectares of crops in a single night. Commercial agricultural crops such as oil palm and rubber can generate losses of millions of dollars annually.

Destruction of forests

There has been significant debate regarding the destruction of forests by elephants. Elephants land and push on trees to feed and perform endurance tests. Damaged trees can be susceptible to wood-boring insects and fungi, as well as damage from wind and wildfires. There is no consensus on whether elephant feeding is the sole cause of forest damage. Other factors, such as increased water table, which causes an increase in soil salinity, can hinder the absorption of water by tree roots. In addition, there is evidence that fire caused by drought significantly alters the spread of trees. Therefore, the challenge of tree regeneration may not be directly attributed to the feeding habits of elephants. Not only is it discussed what causes forest damage, but also how to solve it and whether or not they are part of the natural cycles of elephant vegetation.

Polluted water sources

Due to the increasing number of elephant populations in smaller and smaller areas, many elephant populations share limited resources. Overcrowding can lead to contamination of water resources and a higher incidence of parasitic diseases.

Selective elimination

Also called selective slaughter is the legal slaughter of an animal and is a controversial and debated topic. Due to the fragmentation of the habitat, there is an increase in the number of elephants in smaller spaces of land, contributing to the overexploitation of natural resources in the area. Elephant slaughter has been used in areas where there are too many elephants for the habitat to support them. Comparisons have been made between slaughter and legal hunting measures taken to control deer overpopulation.

The deerLike many animals, if they become overpopulated they have to go further in search of food. These records often take them to cities and highways, which can increase human conflict and / or injuries caused by vehicles. Legal hunting is a preventative measure that prevents deer from becoming overpopulated and reduces cases of starvation and injury.

In general, African elephant populations are classified as threatened. The justification for culling is generally that the number of individuals has exceeded the carrying capacity of the habitat (the amount of available resources a habitat has to sustain life). Culling is not an indication of the general conservation status of a species.

Entire populations are generally eliminated in a matter of minutes, in order to reduce distress for other herds in the area, prevent abandonment of offspring, and minimize trauma. Refer to the repercussions of poaching.

Big Game Trophies

Long revered for their strength and size, elephants have been sought after for hunting big game trophies. Wealthy individuals, primarily of American and European descent, spend between $ 15 and $ 20.

A game ranger usually supervises the hunting expedition and a technician accompanies them in the preparation of legal trophies, usually fangs and legs. The meat is distributed among the local population in the area.

In some African regions, big game trophies can generate more income from mediocre (below average) land than from conventional agriculture, due to the difficult environment for growing crops.


Anthrax is one of the deadliest diseases that affect elephants. Anthrax is a bacteria that causes high fever, chills, ulcers, and swelling. This disease can spread through contaminated water or soil.

There are a host of diseases that are specific to elephants, such as paralysis of the trunk and elephant pox.

Elephants are susceptible to some mosquito-borne diseases and human inflictions, such as intestinal colic, hives, pneumonia, constipation, and even the common cold.

Tuberculosis is a disease caused by bacteria that affects the lungs. It is through tiny droplets in the air and can infect humans and elephants. It is characterized by chronic weight loss, runny nose, cough, and decreased appetite.

When they are sick, elephants help themselves in various ways. Digestive diseases can be treated with fasting or with natural treatments such as the consumption of bitter herbs, bark or alkaline (basic) earth. Wounds can be protected from insect or worm infestation by covering them with mud.

List of other interesting animals