- A-Z Animals
The African Bush Elephant is the largest and heaviest of the land mammals in the world. They are scattered roughly throughout the savanna region of the African continent, and need a huge amount of plant matters and water daily. These mammals move around from place to place in herds, and are believed to be extremely intelligent. The wooly mammoth is said to be one of their ancestors, which disappeared in the hoary past, during the prehistoric period.
Size: Both males and females have a huge appearance but display sexual dimorphism by size. While the males are larger, being between 3.2 and 4 meters at shoulder height, the females are between 2.2 and 2.6.
Weight: Males can weigh between 4,500 and 6,100 kg, and the females between 2,000 and 3,500.
Skin and Fur/Hair/Coat: The skin is extremely thick, wrinkled, and gray to brownish-gray in color with the entire body is covered with very fine body hair (papillae).
Feet: All four feet are extremely strong and muscular, giving the mammal an ability to carry its heavy body at ease.
Eyes: The eyes are rather small and round, with a keen vision.
Ears: The large and rounded ears help then fan off insects and aids in hearing.
Tail: The tail is long and flattened, with a tuft of hair on the tip.
Dentition (Teeth/Tusks): Both males and females have a pair of thick, curved, ivory tusks that can reach up to 350 cm in length. The tusks are actually a modification of the incisors. They also have a total of six molars in the inner jaws, which are replaced, when worn down.
The average life span of this animal is 60 to 70 years in the wild, and up to 80 in captivity.
African Bush Elephants are distributed patchily throughout southern and central Africa’s Ethiopian Region. Remnant populations exist as far northwest as Guinea-Bissau and as far northeast as Ethiopia. Some populations are also found southward into northern South Africa, Gabon, Zambia, Botswana, and Tanzania.
This giant elephant species do not live in any particular kind of place or habitat, but dwell in various types of regions, from the open savanna to the desert, or even in the high rainforests.
African Bush Elephant is an extremely social and gregarious animal. They are diurnal, and are very active throughout the day. These mammals do not live in one place or area, but are rather nomadic in nature. They would move around in herds, with several other members of their groups, including the baby elephants. This nature is backed by their natural instinct to search for food, as well as defence, so as to keep themselves safe from predators as also the elements of nature. Generally, their herds contain about 10 heads, however, different families might as well club together to form a larger super-herd that might even contain over 1,000 animals.
These animals have a huge trunk that are extremely strong and flexible, assisting them in handling food, as well as for collecting water for drinking and bathing. They also use the trunk extensively when it comes to feud with fellow male elephants especially during the mating season, or to fight back the enemies, or even curl the trunk to hold the attacker and throw them away at a distance, thus even killing them. They would also use their tusk for defense purposes, when attacked by wild animals such as lions, tigers, etc.
African Bush Elephants are extremely intelligent creatures with a very advanced brain and a keen vision (as opposed to the common belief that they have poor eyesight). Like the behavioral adaptations of the bush elephant, the African forest elephant, or the Asian elephant, they too use their trunks to throw dirt or mud onto their backs, thus protecting them from the sun, insect bites, as also keeping them cool during warm climates.
They are also emotional, and can even create a mental bond with other members of its community, or even humans. They can very clearly display emotions like exchanging love, lamenting the death of a relative, or showing deep attachment and care for the young ones.
African elephants communicate by different vocalizations, and changing positions and postures of the body. When threatened or angry, they would use their trunks to emit loud sounds to scare predators away.
African Bush Elephants are completely herbivorous with their diet comprising mostly of leaves, fruits, branches, tender tree barks, roots, and other plant matters including varieties of grasses.
They are polygynandrous in nature, and would breed throughout the year. When the females attain their estrus state, they are ready to mate with many other males. These elephants are ‘cooperative breeders’, which means, a new mother gets the cooperation and help of the other members in the group in raising the young.
A male can understand whether a female is ready to copulate is from the scent in the urine and the genital area. The courtship is done by the male, when it approaches the female, mildly stroking the latter’s trunk. If the female agrees, it would surrender to the male, bending on the hindquarters. It is then the turn of the male to mount the female, and begin mating. The act of intercourse takes about two minutes to complete.
After mating, the female undergo the period of gestation for up to 2 years, giving birth to a single baby, with twins being extremely rare (litter size: 1/2). The calves, when born, are around 90 cm in height, and can weigh between 10 and 120 kg. Their average age of weaning is 4 months (i.e., from when they are able to consume solid food as well), however, the baby elephant would suckle its mother’s milk until the age of five.
The juvenile is nursed for about 2 years, however, they it will still remain under the protection and guidance of the herd members as long as it is not strong enough to support itself. This takes around 6 years, and it is at this time when the sign of the tusk will begin to show for the first time.
The females of the species reach sexual maturity after they attain the age of 10 or 11 years. However, they are at the highest point of fertility when they are between 25 and 45. As for the males, they attain it at around age 20.
The only predator of the African Bush Elephant is human. Poachers often enter their habitats to kill them for the high demand of ivory (tusk) in the world market. However, the young ones might be attacked by lions and crocodiles.
With the quick decline in population of these mammoth creatures, the African Bush Elephants have been classified as Vulnerable (Classification: ‘VU’) by the IUCN 3.1 Red List.