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The “African Loxodonta” or the African elephant lives in Africa, south of the Sahara. It is part of the Proboscidea order (Proboscideans), which includes a group of animals that were previously very widespread. Proboscidea includes animals with trunks, but nowadays they are represented by a single family, more precisely two genera. The family is called “Elephantidae” and comprises the African Loxodonta or Loxodonta cyclotis genera from Africa and Elephas Indicus from India, Malacca, and Sri Lanka.
Unlike other genera, the African elephant has much larger ears, but the body is the same. For example, Asian elephants have more skin hair, while African elephants have almost none. The latter live in Savannah, being present in 37 countries in Africa. The researchers also found that the African elephant is as different from the forest elephant as it was the first mammoth from Antiquity. It is also true that few features are known about forest elephants, as there are numerous obstacles that impede more research. However, African Loxodonta refers strictly to the Savannah elephant, meaning the one from Africa.
The number of elephants in Africa, specifically in West Africa, is quite small, plus it is not known exactly how numerous the population of these animals is. Such evidence is almost impossible to keep, given that elephants travel long enough in search of food.
African elephant information
The African elephant is a giant mammal, Mammalia class, heavy and with an extremely slow walk. African elephants can reach heights of 13 feet, 4 meters, at the shoulder and they can weigh as much as 14,000 pounds, 6,350 kilograms. The nose is grown along with the upper lip and lengthens into a mobile trunk whose base is supported by cartilage. At the top of the trunk you can see the nasal holes and two other lips with which the elephant catches food, usually leaves, being an herbivorous mammal. The skin is very rough and thick, almost free of hairs. The dentition is simple, as is the case with most mammals.
The upper incisors have the shape of fangs and reach impressive dimensions. They are also called ivory. The molars appear one at a time. At first, they appear as two big ones on each jaw. Over time, they are grinded and pushed from the roots by new ones. For example, the first molar appears at 3-4 months, the second will appear at 3 years, the third at 5 years, the fourth at 10 years, the fifth at 20, and the sixth at 30 years. These animals can reach 80 years old, knowing that the oldest elephant died at the age of 83.
The African elephant has a skull made up of thick, spongy bones. Its body rests on four strong limbs, ending with 3-5 toes. They reach sexual maturity around 14-15 years, and reproduction can happen up to 80 years. The female’s gestation lasts for a maximum of 23 months, giving birth to a single cub that follows its parents in search of food. The cub will be about one meter in height and 80-90 kilograms, or even up to 100 kilograms in weight in some cases. In fact, it is known that the elephant is the largest animal living on Earth today.
The behavior of the African elephant
Elephants usually live in herds, forming small families composed of a female, its descendants, and possibly the offspring of the descendants. It was assumed that the leaders of the herd were males, but it has been shown that they often lead solitary lives. The families of females are visited by males during mating. Several related groups can populate the same area and each time they meet in the areas where they all drink water, they greet each other in an affectionate way.
Females mature around the age of 11 and remain in the group, while males, who mature around the age of 12-15, are excluded. Although they reach sexual maturity, they will not reproduce until around the age of 20, or later, after they ascend the hierarchy. There are females that can enter heat from the age of maturity, namely 12 years. The gestation period lasts about 22-23 months and the female elephant is surrounded by the other females in the group, along with the baby elephants being raised only by females.
Adult males go through a period of maximum sexual activity and aggression annually. During this period, which can last between one week and three-four months, the sex glands produce secretions that, along with urine, mark the territory, and they emit numerous mating sounds.
Elephants have a well-developed sense of smell, but grunts and loud sounds are at the heart of their communication system. Scientists are convinced that each individual has a specific grunt, which differs them from the rest of the herd. In case of danger, elephants communicate by blowing air through the trunk, a signal at which they automatically group together, forming a protective circle around young specimens. Elephants emit low-frequency sounds, which, although the human ear does not perceive, help them communicate at distances of 8-10 kilometers.
The African elephant’s diet
The African elephant spends the entire day eating, or about 16 hours, and uses around 3-5 hours for drinking water, playing, dusting, and resting. Because they digest only 40% of the ingested amount, these animals consume enormous amounts of food (5 times their body weight) and drink up to 200 liters of water per day.
Young elephants learn how to collect water with the help of the trunk. They have a varied diet that includes herbs, leaves, bark, seeds, and fruits. The fiber content of the food and the enormous amounts they swallow cause the animal’s feces to be in large quantities.
How do they take care of their young ones?
Females usually give birth to only one cub. In the case of orphaned offspring, they will be adopted by another member of the family, which is lactating or fed by several females at the same time. Females are caring mothers, and because their behavior assimilates through learning, they keep their young around them for many years
Fangs appear at the age of 16 months but are visible after the age of 30 months. The African elephant cub uses its mouth during breastfeeding and holds its trunk over its head. When the fangs grow up to 15 centimeters, the female stops breastfeeding, but the cub remains in the group until the age of 4-5 years.
Elephants were spread throughout Africa, including the northern part, during the Roman Empire. Due to excessive hunting, they have restricted their habitat. Although they adapt easily, living in both tropical forests and semi-desert areas, their future is questioned.
Current populations are endangered by poachers hunting them both for their ivory fangs and for the expansion of human settlements. Today, they would find it difficult to survive outside natural reservations and national parks. There are cases where they leave their designated area and destroy nearby crops.