Swahili Name: Tembo or ndovu
Scientific Name: Loxodonta africana
Size: Up to 11 feet
Weight: 31/2 – 61/2 tons (7,000 13,200 lb)
Lifespan: 60 to 70 years
Habitat: Dense forest to open plains
Gestation: About 22 months
Elephants can live in nearly any habitat that has adequate quantities of food and water. Their ideal habitat consists of plentiful grass and browse.
Elephants are generally gregarious and form small family groups consisting of an older matriarch and three or four offspring, along with their young. It was once thought that family groups were led by old bull elephants, but these males are most often solitary. The female family groups are often visited by mature males checking for females in estrus. Several interrelated family groups may inhabit an area and know each other well. When they meet at watering holes and feeding places, they greet each other affectionately. Females mature at about 11 years and stay in the group, while the males, which mature between 12 and 15, are usually expelled from the maternal herd. Even though these young males are sexually mature, they do not breed until they are in their mid- or late 20’s (or even older) and have moved up in the social hierarchy.
An elephant’s day is spent eating (about 16 hours), drinking, bathing, dusting, wallowing, playing and resting (about three to five hours).
Caring for the Young
Usually only one calf is born to a pregnant female. An orphaned calf will usually be adopted by one of the family’s lactating females or suckled by various females. Elephants are very attentive mothers, and because most elephant behavior has to be learned, they keep their offspring with them for many years.
Did you know?
- The elephant is distinguished by its high level of intelligence, interesting behavior, methods of communication and complex social structure.
- Elephants are very social, frequently touching and caressing one another and entwining their trunks.
- Elephants seem to be fascinated with the tusks and bones of dead elephants, fondling and examining them. The myth that they carry them to secret “elephant burial grounds,” however, has no factual base.
- Elephants demonstrate concern for members of their families they take care of weak or injured members and appear to grieve over a dead companion