The African ElephantBy Zandré du Preez - 16567188


The African Elephant is the largest living land animal on earth. The elephant's gestation period is 22 months, which is the longest of any land animal. An elephant calf weighs 105kg at birth. Elephants live about 50 to 70 years, but the oldest elephant lived 82 years.

Elephants tusks never stop growing throughout their lives. An adult elephant's tusk grows about 18 cm a year. Tusks play a very important role in elephants' lives as they are used to dig for water, into trees - to get at the pulp inside; and to move trees and branches when clearing a path. Large tusks can reach over 3 meters in length and weigh over 90 kg.

African elephants appear brown or red fom playing and bathing in the mud holes of coloured soil. The mud is very important as it protects the elephants' skin from burning in the sun. Although an elephants' skin looks thick and hard, it is very sensitive to ultraviolet radiation (the sun's rays). The mud also protects the elephants' skin from insect bites and moisture loss. Without taking regular baths in mud, an elephants' skin would suffer severely. After elephants have taken a bath they use their trunks to help dry their body to bake on their new protective coats.


An elephant`s legs are shaped like pillars to help carry their big bodies. Their legs and feet are built in such a way that they can stand for long durations of time without getting tired at all, as they sleep for only two hours a day in a standing position. The African Elephant rarely lies down, unless they are sick. The feet of an Arican Elephant is nearly round, and they have four nails on each front foot and three nails on each hind foot. Fast-moving elephants ‘run’ with their front legs, but ‘walk’ with their hind legs. They start to ‘run’ at 8km/h, but there have been reports that elephants can run up to 40km/h.


The large flapping ears of an elephant are also very important for temperature regulation. Elephant ears are made of a very thin layer of skin stretched over cartilage and a rich network of blood vessels. On very hot days elephants would flat their ears more to cool themselves off, because the flapping of the ears causes a light breeze. Arican elephants originate at the equator where it is warmer, and that is why they have bigger ears than other elephants. If an elephant wants to intimidate a preditor it will spread its ears out widely in order to look even larger and mightier. SuperStock_4141-49310.jpg


The females detach themselves from the herd in the short mating season, as she is only able to conceive for a few days every year. The scent of the cow in heat attracts the male elephants, they also use audible sounds to get the males attention. The cow usually outruns the male, because she does not want to mate with every male that approaches her. If the male elephant catches the female's attention he would drape his trunk outside of his tusks during the ritual. This interactions may last for 20 to 30 minutes. The female elephant is not passive in the ritual and uses the same techniques as the male.
Elephants communicate with each other by making a number of sounds. The trumpet calls of an elephant is very famous, which are made by blowing through its nostrils. An elephant usually uses its trumpet when it's excited, when greeting each other, and a cry for help or in rage. Elephants can communicate over long distances by producing an infrasound, which can travel in the air.

The elephant’s teeth differ from other mammals. Over their lives they usually have 28 teeth. Unlike most mammals, which grow baby teeth and then replace them with a single permanent set of adult teeth, elephants have cycles of tooth rotation throughout their entire life.

Elephants are extremely intelligent animals and they have a memory than can span over many years. As one sees on the picture, the brain of an elephants is much bigger than a human's brain. It is about twice as big. Their trunks are well innervated and they have an exceptional sense of hearing and smelling. Elephants cannot only hear from their ears, but from their trunks that are sensitive to vibrations and their feet, which have special receptors for low frequency sounds. In other words, elephants can communicate over several kilometres through the ground.


The African Elephant can be divided into two subspecies. The Savannah - the Forest elephant. The African Savannah
elephants are to be found in savannah zones in 37 countries south of the Sahara Desert. African Forest elephants inhabit the dense rain forests of west and central Africa. One of the key threats facing elephants is habitat loss. Elephants' habitat will become hotter and drier due to the climate change. Elephants' future are at risk, as the human populations are taking over more and more elephant habitat and poaching for ivory. At the turn of the 20th century, there were a few million African elephants. Today, there are only an estimated 450,000 - 700,000 African elephants.

The Big Five, but in this case the African Elephant, also features prominently on South African bank notes.


African Elephant Trumpeting: