Young elephants wean after 6 to 18 months, although they may continue nursing for over 6 years. Male elephants leave their natal group at puberty and tend to form much more fluid alliances with other males.
This species lives up to around 70 years, with females mostly fertile between 25 and 45. Males need to reach 20 years of age in order to successfully compete for mating.
Usually, a single calf is born every 2.5-9 years at the onset of the wet season, after a gestation period of 22 months.
African elephants communicate with rumbles, growls, bellows, and moans. Some of these varied, low-frequency sounds may travel a mile or more.
Female elephants are one of the few mammals other than humans who live beyond their reproductive years. The typical cow will end her reproductive period between 45-50 years. During this post-reproductive time she assists with the care of other young.
Elephants are extremely intelligent animals and have memories that span many years. It is this memory that serves matriarchs well during dry seasons when they need to guide their herds, sometimes for tens of miles, to watering holes that they remember from the past. They also display signs of grief, joy, anger and play.
Elephants eat roots, grasses, fruit, and bark, and they eat a lot of these things. An adult elephant can consume up to 300 pounds (136 kilograms) of food in a single day.
Elephant ears radiate heat to help keep these large animals cool, but sometimes the African heat is too much. Elephants are fond of water and enjoy showering by sucking water into their trunks and spraying it all over themselves. Afterwards, they often spray their skin with a protective coating of dust.
Elephants are capable of pulling up to 11.5 liters (3 gallons) of water into the trunk to be sprayed into the mouth for drinking or onto the back for bathing. They also use two finger-like projections that are at the tip to manipulate small objects and to pluck grasses.
The most obvious characteristic of elephants, besides their massive size, is their trunk. The trunk is nothing more than an elongation of their nose and upper lip. Besides being used for breathing and smelling it is also used as an appendage, much like an arm or hand.
A third species, the West African Elephant, has also been postulated. The African Elephant Specialist Group believes that more extensive research is required to support the proposed re-classification.
Savanna elephants are now most common in Kenya, Tanzania, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, and South Africa. The suspected third species lives in both savanna and forest in west Africa.
African elephants live in many parts of sub-Saharan Africa, although their range is now broken into patches. Small numbers of forest elephants live in dense equatorial forests of Central Africa from Zaire west to Mauritania
African elephants are the largest land animals on Earth. They are slightly larger than their Asian cousins and can be identified by their larger ears that look somewhat like the continent of Africa. (Asian elephants have smaller, rounded ears.)
Genus and Species: Loxodonta africana and L. cyclotis