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Africa's Big 5 - Images, Facts and Information about the "Big Five"


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African Elephant (Loxodonta africana)
African Elephant, Serengeti, Tanzania

African Elephant, Serengeti, Tanzania

© Anouk Zijlma
The African elephant (Loxodonta africana) is the largest mammal in the world and remarkably adaptable. Elephants live in woodlands, forests, deserts and savanna, spread across 37 countries in sub-Saharan Africa. The demand for ivory led to a dramatic decrease in elephant numbers, especially during the 1970's and 1980's. A ban on all ivory trade has helped stabilize the population to around 600,000 in the last decade. But poaching is still a major issue, especially in parts of Africa where there is political instability. The African elephant is listed as "vulnerable" by the IUCN Redlist of threatened species.

Elephants are quite peaceful if left alone, but if they feel threatened - watch out. There's nothing quite like being charged at by 12,000 lb's of animal, flapping its ears and trumpeting loudly. Elephants can be over 14 feet tall and 30 feet wide. They drink 30-50 gallons of water every day and are vegetarians. They eat grass, leaves, twigs, bark, fruit and seed pods. Adult elephants consume up to 375 lbs of vegetation every day. This causes significant destruction if their habitat range is limited. You can easily tell where a family of elephants have been by the number of destroyed trees they leave in their wake.

Elephants are very social animals, they communicate using a variety of low frequency grumbles and rumbles which can be picked up 6 miles away. They live in family groups of up to 100 members, headed by a matriarch. Elephants are social and affectionate animals. Elephant mothers are very attentive to their babies, orphans are nursed by other mothers in the group. A young elephant is weaned at 4-5 years old, when their tusks start to get in the way, they may move out of the family group at 10-12 years old.

Where to see African Elephants
Elephants live in many sub-Saharan countries in Africa, here are some of the best places to see them while on safari:

Fun Facts About The African Elephant
  • An elephant's trunk is the fusion of its upper lip and nose, it has more than 40,000 muscles
  • An elephant calf often sucks its trunk for comfort
  • Elephants prefer one tusk over the other, just as people are either left or right-handed
  • Elephants use their trunk as a snorkel when swimming
  • Elephants waive their trunks up in the air and from side to side to smell better
  • An elephants' skin is an inch thick
  • Elephants flap their ears to keep cool
  • Elephants spend up to 16-18 hours per day eating
  • Elephants' tusks grow throughout their lives
  • Elephants use their feet to listen. They pick up sub-sonic rumblings made by other elephants through vibrations in the ground.

AWF - Elephant
Nature - Elephant
IUCN Redlist

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