There are two species of elephants, the African and the Asian elephant. The biggest of the two species is the African elephant. The African elephant is the biggest land animal. The males can grow to a height of 3.3m and may weigh up to 6,000kg. Females are shorter and can weigh 4,000kg. The biggest bull ever measured stood 4m tall.
The Asian elephant is slightly different. It has a single lip on the tip of the trunk unlike the African elephant which has two lips at the tip of the trunk. Another difference is their ears. Asian elephants have smaller ears. Both inhabit forests and grasslands and feed mostly on grasses, shrubs and trees, including twigs, leaves and bark.
Elephants have a good appetite to go with their size. An adult needs about 150kg of plant food a day and about 80 litres of water. They spend up to 16 hours a day feeding.
The herd is usually led by the oldest and largest cow, the matriarch. Elephants have the longest pregnancy of all mammals. At birth a newborn baby weighs around 120kg. The baby uses its mouth to suckle, not its trunk. In the first few months the trunk of the calf is almost useless. The calf drinks milk about two years, eating plants only after a few months. Elephants grow fast until they are about 15 years old. After this their growth slows but they keep growing throughout their life, unlike other mammals. Elephants live up to 60 years of age. The major killing of elephants is done illegally by poachers. Another reason for their depletion is farming. Farms are built where elephants used to roam freely... more