An African Elephant. Photo:Magister

Facts About Elephants

The elephant is the world’s largest land animal, with adults weighing between 6,000 and 9,000 kilos, or 13,000 and 20,000 pounds, and reaching a height of 3.5 to 4 meters, or between 11 and 13 feet from the toes to the top of the head. In spite of their size, they can run at speeds of up to 40 miles per hour for short periods of time.

The elephant is also one of the longest-living creatures, with a lifespan close to that of humans.

There are two recognized species of elephants: the African and the Asian, with the African elephant being the slightly larger of the two. Beyond size, the most obvious physical difference is the greater size of the African elephant’s ears. In addition, some scientists consider the Africian forest elephant to be a distinct species from the African bush elephant.

An elephant pregnancy lasts for 22 months—the longest gestation period for any land animal—and a baby elephant weighs around 250 pounds.

Female elephants live in herds, and often cooperate in caring for the young. Adult male elephants live in loose groups of other males, or are solitary. All elephants are browsers, eating a variety of grasses, leaves, and other plant material.

Neither species of elephant is yet considered to be endangered. However, their numbers have been declining steadily due to habitat loss and hunting by humans, who kill them for their valuable ivory tusks.

Aside from humans, grown elephants have few natural enemies, although lions will sometimes kill an adult African elephant.

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