The gentle giant, the Elephant is one of Africa’s Big 5; the five animals that everyone comes to Africa seeking to see on a safari. These glorious creatures include the African elephants, Cape buffaloes, Lions, Leopards and Rhinoceroses. They are so called the Big 5 because in the past they were listed to be the most dangerous animals to hunt by foot.
Elephants are well known to be the largest land mammals to walk the planet. African elephants are slightly larger than the Asian version, also having larger ears.
These majestic animals can live a lengthy life of 70 years in the wild savannah’s of Africa. A similarity they have to us mere mortals is in the way that they prefer one tusk over another, making them right or left tusked.
They have been documented to be able to feel emotions such as anger, joy and even the worst sentiment of all, sorrow.
They can be seen throughout the savannah’s in sub-Saharan Africa, through to the rain forests of central and West Africa. There are elephants in the northern most part of the continent, in Mali’s Sahel Desert.
Groups are matriarchal being led by the oldest female who with an impressive memory like an elephant, holds the knowledge to pass onto generations and is in charge of the group’s survival. The females known as cows live together with their youngsters while the adult males (bulls) prefer to roam the plains unaccompanied.
They like to have showers using their impressive trunks to suck up water and spray it all over themselves, afterwards they might throw some sand over their skin which acts as sunblock against the harsh African sun.
It has been discovered that elephants can communicate by making a rumble that is able to travel far over the ground. The other elephants receive these messages through their feet and trunks.
They are loving and social animals which develop close bonds for one another within the family. Elephants show affection by wrapping their trunks together which is their version of a hug. They have a meaningful greeting ceremony, when an elephant buddy has returned from being away for a long time, they show their joy by trumpeting, flapping their ears and giving hugs.
They munch up to 136 kg’s (300 lbs) in a day! They enjoy the delicacies of roots, grasses, fruit and bark, as well as eating off of shrubs and trees. Elephants have been known to be mischievous and eat the crops that have been grown by farmers such as bananas and sugar-cane.
Elephants mate mostly during the raining season.
Female elephants carry their babies for almost 22 months which is a longer pregnancy than any other mammal. They will usually give birth to one calf every two to four years. A baby elephant is born weighing almost 91 kg’s (200 lbs) and stand at about 1 meter tall (3 feet).
When an elephant calf is born their trunk has no muscle tone so they suckle using their mouth. It takes the baby a few months to gain full control of their trunk and their legs. Baby elephants are known to be cute and clumsy.
“If you do not have a memory like an elephant, leave impressions like one.”
Did you know?
Elephants do not have great eyesight but they have an amazing sense of smell. They use their trunks, which have over 100 000 individual different muscles, to smell, breathe, trumpet, and drink. At the end of their impressive trunks there are two finger-like features they use by pinching the opposing ends together to grab small objects.
They are the only mammals that can’t jump, but they can swim using their trunk as a snorkel in deep water.
Their feet come equipped with soft padding which helps to hold their weight and prevent them from slipping. It is because of this padding that elephants are discreet walkers.
These are my favourite of all Africa's wildlife. I think it's from sitting in a herd of Ellies for about an hour on one safari we went on. To be surrounded by them ( except for an escape route) to look in their eyes, listen and feel their rumblings, to hear the crack as they break off foliage….and feel utter peace. Just wonderful. Such a privilege.