The African elephant is one of the most endangered animals on Earth.
They are classified as a “vulnerable” species and their population numbers have dwindled to only about 350,000 elephants.
The birth of an elephant calf changes everything for that animal’s family and its herd, but it also has the potential to change the entire ecosystem in which they live.
It starts with just one baby: A tiny life with little more than two feet and a trunk that will grow up to be six feet tall and weigh over 10 tons!
The African elephant is the largest mammal in its habitat, but it possesses a gentle heart. Despite their massive size, they are also quite agile.
An elephant calf will often pivot around its mama quickly who catches it with her trunk.
She then inspects the baby thoroughly, smelling and touching it to ensure that it is healthy.
The little one will then begin to nurse, taking its first meal of rich milk from its mother’s four mammary glands.
African Elephant Births:
An elephant gestation can be anywhere from 660 to 675 days, and that is a long time. There are only about four or five calves born per 100 elephants.
The mothers fiercely protect their young and will often choose to leave the herd – if only temporarily – in order to give birth.
If another elephant attempts to get close, the mama elephant will warn it away with a sharp look or a thunderous snort.
There are stories of some elephants that have even attacked lions to protect their calves!
African Elephant lifespan:
The average lifespan of an elephant in the wild is about 60-70 years. However, if a calf lives past its first year, which is no small feat in itself, it has an excellent chance at living nearly that long.
Calves are protected by their mothers and the herd until they reach a certain age, usually around five years old.
At this point, they will typically leave the herd to join another group that is led by a young, healthy male.
Males are usually forced out of the family group by a dominant, older male who is many years their senior.
However, some males never leave and choose to stay in their family unit their whole lives.
African Elephant Communication:
Elephants are highly social creatures that have extremely complex relationships with one another.
Their language includes many different vocalizations, infrasound rumbles that are inaudible to humans, and physical contact through their trunks.
They are constantly communicating with one another, but calves are not usually privy to the full extent of it until they reach a certain age.
Cows and adult male elephants will use their trunks to touch one another as a means of communication, something that is known as trunk shaking.
They also make other warning gestures to other elephants in the herd, such as flapping their ears or stomping the ground with their front feet.
African Elephant predators:
As the largest land animals on Earth, adult elephants have very few natural predators.
Their size and their herd mentality make them difficult to attack and their massive tusks can be used as weapons.
Humans pose the gravest threat to elephants, and they are often hunted for their ivory.
Elephants are currently in the process of being re-introduced to areas where they have been previously hunted to the brink of extinction, but the process is slow and has had some failures.
African Elephant Water:
Elephants are not able to sweat the way humans do and therefore require water daily.
They will drink up to fifty gallons of water – at least – every single day, which means that they are entirely dependent on their habitat to have an adequate amount of it available.
If the water has dried up or all of the nearby rivers are contaminated, the elephant herd will usually move to a new habitat.
It is thought that elephants can tell if water is contaminated by smell and will avoid it for this reason.
They are also very picky about the quality of water that they will drink, preferring clear, freshwater to stagnant ponds or streams.
African elephants are one of the most impressive and intriguing animals on Earth.
They are so large that they require a huge amount of food every day, but they also work together to ensure that all of the members of their social group are cared for.
In order to reproduce, elephants have a pregnancy that can last for two years, but they can live well into their sixties if given proper care.
They are also the only mammals other than humans that can use their voices to communicate with one another.
All of these facts and more make the African elephant a truly remarkable animal that is well worth learning about.
Q: How many babies does an elephant typically have during its lifetime?
A: An elephant will usually have four or five babies after years of being pregnant.
Q: How much water does an elephant drink daily?
A: Elephants drink up to 50 gallons of water every day.
Q: What are some natural predators of the African elephant?
A: Humans and lions pose a serious threat to African elephants.
Q: How long do elephants need to live in an area before they can be considered to have settled?
A: Elephants will usually only live in an area for a few months to ensure that there are ample resources available before deciding that they have settled.
Q: What is infrasound?
A: Infrasound is another form of elephant communication that uses low-frequency rumbles. Humans can’t hear it, but other elephants can.
Q: Where do elephants go if their habitat has dried up?
A: If the water in an elephant’s habitat dries up, they will usually move to a new area.
Q: Why do elephants avoid water that is contaminated?
A: It is thought that elephants can tell if water is contaminated by smell.