The Elephant is the largest mammal in today’s world. They measure between 6 to 13 feet (or about 3 to 4 meters) in height, and between 10 to 22 feet (or about 3 to 8 meters) in length. As you can see, their size varies moderately between sub-species, with African Elephants dominating in both height and length at 7 to 13 feet (or about 2 to 4 meters) in height, and 12 to 22 feet (or 3.5 to 7 meters) in length.
The Elephant’s trunk is a key appendage for their daily tasks. They use it to grasp items for eating, drinking, and lifting. They also use it to breath when most of their body is underwater, and when in a scuffle with another elephant or animal. With their trunk, they can typically hold about 2.5 to 3 gallons (or about 9 to 12 liters). It is usually around 6 feet (or two meters) in length, making it just about the height of the average human. However, it oddly weighs about twice as much, weighing about 300 pounds (or 140 kilograms) on average.
Elephants have very interesting teeth. The most obvious of these are the tusks (Yes, interestingly enough, they are considered teeth), which appear in a pair below and beside the trunk. These tusks are long and pointed, giving them the ability to dig, shove aside larger objects, and defend themselves. Elephants have 24 more teeth that reside inside the mouth. These teeth come in vertically from the back and gradually move forward as the Elephant ages. Over time, the front-most teeth fall out to be replaced by the younger teeth that have grown in more recently.
Elephants have numerous functions to combat heat. This isn’t unlike all other mammals, but Elephants seem to have a bit of a heat problem and therefore have some unique ways of dispelling it. Their skin is very thick, being around an inch (about 3 centimeters) thick on most of the body. This, unfortunately, doesn’t help the situation. They can periodically be seen lifting up their feet to presumably cool them off in the air. Their ears are enormous, thin, and filled with capillaries that help disperse a lot of the heat from their blood. They also periodically spray themselves with water, mud, and dust to protect themselves from sunburns.
The Elephant has a very big brain, being around 10 to 12 pounds (or 4.5 to 5.5 kilograms) and 18 inches (or 45 centimeters) in length. They appear to demonstrate some intelligent behaviors, such as making simple tools and being able to visually recognize different objects and areas. They are also thought to be capable of showing empathy.
Elephants most often communicate through touch. They often greet each other by wrapping or rubbing their trunks together. When giving discipline, they slap, kick, or shove the offending Elephant. When they want attention from a mother, they can touch or rub in different areas or ways to communicate different things.
Elephants have been tamed and trained for a long time, and they continue to be today. In some areas, they are trained for hauling, transporting, and to operate in processions. They are also used to produce a type of coffee by digesting it. After being fed coffee beans, these beans are then collected from their droppings and processed to produce Black Ivory Coffee.
Elephants are listed as endangered. Their population has decreased by over 50% in the last half-century. In 1979, their total population was estimated to be at 1.3 million individuals at a minimum. 10 years later, that estimation dropped to about 600,000. In 2012, the IUCN (the International Union for Conservation of Nature) estimated that the total population rested around 440,000 individuals. Just a few years prior to this, some studies found that the population of Elephants was increasing. This, however, is debated due to the difficulty in accounting for their total population. This is largely difficult due to the vast area that Elephants reside in.
Elephants are poached for the ivory in their tusks, the meat on their bones, and their enormous hides. It’s estimated that 55 Elephants are killed every day for their valuable bodily products. This has, however, been greatly diminished ever since 1989, when the United States banned ivory imports. This was swiftly followed by other countries in North America, Europe, and Asia. In 2015, China said they would make sales of ivory illegal. They enacted laws to prevent ivory sales 3 years later in 2018.
Elephants are social beings, and they like to stick with specific social groups. Females spend their lives with a dozen, sometimes dozens of individuals who are usually mothers raising their young. The females follow a group leader until that leader’s death, in which case the daughter of that leader would take her place. Males, on the other hand, grow more and more distant to this social group as they get older. Eventually, they splinter off and live alone or within a group of males. However, they are still very friendly with other Elephants and will form loving relationships with others.
Let us hope that the Elephant species continues to grow in numbers, rather than facing extinction.