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                African Bush Elephant

                African Bush Elephant

                Savanna elephant

                Kingdom
                Phylum
                Subphylum
                Class
                Order
                Family
                Genus
                SPECIES
                Loxodonta africana
                Population size
                above 15,000
                Life Span
                60-70 yrs
                TOP SPEED
                40 km/h
                WEIGHT
                3,600-5,400
                HEIGHT
                3-3.5 m

                Savanna elephant, or otherwise known as African bush elephant, is the largest elephant in Africa. Considerably large ears help the animal radiate excess heat. The hind limbs are shorter than the fore-limbs. The animal possesses a tusk, which aids in marking, feeding, digging and fighting. The Savanna elephant impresses with its massive size: the largest individual of this species was 4 meters at the shoulder and as heavy as 10 tonnes.

                Distribution

                Savanna elephant primarily occurs in grassy plains and bushlands of 37 countries in eastern and southern Africa.

                African Bush Elephant habitat map

                Climate zones

                Habits and Lifestyle

                Savanna elephants live in a rather complex social hierarchy. These animals gather into family units, consisting of about 10 females and their offspring. Reaching maturity, male calves usually leave the family unit, forming bachelor herds or living solitarily. As a general rule, males socialize with these family groups only when mating. Meanwhile, several family herds may gather together, making up a 'clan'. Each clan is dominated by a female matriarch, and can consist of as many as several hundred elephants. African bush elephants are very careful and protective animals. Allomothering is a common practice in this species: females can raise calves of other females of their herd. They protect and care for calves of the herd, while all adults are sleeping. If a calf strays too far, these allomothers are responsible for retrieving the baby. These active animals are constantly on the move. These elephants forage during the daytime hours, wandering the home range of their herd. Savanna elephants freely communicate with conspecifics both verbally and non-verbally.

                Diet and Nutrition

                These herbivorous animals mainly feed upon leaves, roots, bark, grasses, fruit and other vegetation.

                Mating Habits

                MATING BEHAVIOR
                REPRODUCTION SEASON
                Year-round, peaks occur during the rainy seasons
                PREGNANCY DURATION
                2 years
                BABY CARRYING
                1 calf
                INDEPENDENT AGE
                6 years
                FEMALE NAME
                cow
                MALE NAME
                bull
                BABY NAME
                calf

                Savanna elephants have a polygynous mating system, where males are constantly in search of breeding females. They breed throughout the year with peak periods, occurring during the rainy seasons. When mating, males usually stay less than a few weeks with each female and her herd. Gestation period lasts as long as 2 years, yielding a single baby (rarely - twins), which is nursed for about 2 years. The calf then continues to live under protection of the entire herd until 6 years old, when the young elephant is able to live independently. Males of this species are sexually mature after 20 years old, whereas females are mature after 10 - 11 years, being most reproductive at 25 - 45 years old.

                Population

                Population threats

                This elephant is currently threatened by poaching for its ivory fetches, which are highly valued in black markets in Asian countries as well as the United States. In addition, war and over-exploitation of natural resources usually cause increased poaching for their meat. African bush elephants frequently come into conflict with people as a result of growing human population: thus, about 70% of their range lie outside the protected areas, due to which they often damage agriculture and water supplies, leading to injuries and even mortality in both people and elephants. On the other hand, growing human population combined with land conversion is one of the biggest threats to the population of this species, causing fragmentation of their natural habitat.

                Population number

                According to the Wikipedia resource, the total number of the African bush elephants today is more than 15,000 individuals. Currently, this species is classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List, and its numbers are increasing.

                Ecological niche

                African bush elephants play a significant role in the local ecosystem. Due to reducing tree density within their range, these animals maintain the ecosystem of savanna and open woodland, helping many plants and animals survive. Due to digging, they make holes in dry riverbeds; they usually dig or enlarge caves when looking for salt, thus creating shelter for various animals.

                Fun Facts for Kids

                • This animal can eat 220 - 660 pounds (100 to 300 kg) of food and use as much as 50 gallons (190 L) of water per day.
                • On the bottom of its feet, the African Bush elephant possesses spongy pads, which soften its footsteps, allowing the animal to walk with making minimum noise.
                • The extremely flexible trunk of this animal has 100,000 various muscles.
                • Elephants serve as 'seismic detectors' due to sensory cells in their feet: during ground vibrations, they perceive deep-pitched sounds, which pass from their front feet to their legs and shoulder bones, reaching their middle ear.
                • The tough skin of these animals is highly sensitive to ultraviolet rays. Hence, they use mud as a sunscreen: elephants are known to regularly take mud baths, which protect their skin from burning, insect bites and loss of moisture.
                • Along with great apes, magpies and dolphins, elephants are among species, which have passed the mirror test - they are able to recognize themselves in a mirror.

                References

                1. African Bush Elephant Wikipedia article - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/African_bush_elephant
                2. African Bush Elephant on The IUCN Red List site - http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/12392/0

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