The elephant, the iconic pachyderm present on several continents

Behind his thick grayish skin, the largest animal earthly from the world hides a tender heart. Pampered from birth, the elephant has a sense ofmutual aid which is not extinguished until its last breath. Close-up on a pachyderm gregarious and united.

Several species of elephants

The largest land animal in the world, the elephant is a mammal belonging to the order of Proboscidians and to the family of Elephantidae. He lives in Africa and Asia. On the African continent, there are two species:

  • Savannah elephant (Loxodonta africana);
  • The forest elephant (Loxodonta cyclotis).

African and Asian elephants

ElephantAsia is present in thirteen countries ranging from South-East Asia to China, including the Indian region. In Africa, it is found in nearly forty countries and its distribution varies according to the species:

  • Elephant savannah has a vast distribution area comprising the south of the Sahara desert to South Africa as well as the African Atlantic coast to the Indian Ocean. The species frequents meadows, swamps and the edges of rivers ;
  • Elephant forest lives in Central Africa and more precisely in Gabon and the Republic of Congo, also with significant populations in the south-eastern part of the Republic of Cameroon, as well as in the adjacent south-western tip of the Central African Republic. The species lives in tropical forests dense.

The elephant has hard and… sensitive skin

The average weight of an Asian elephant is 4 tons and up to 6 tons for the African elephant. About 2 cm thick, the skin gray of the elephant is made fragile by the presence of folds where parasites. She has almost no hair, no sweat gland or sebaceous gland. This characteristic makes its skin dried often needs to be moistened with water, dust or mud thrown from the proboscis. More small that the African savannah species, the elephant of forest sports straighter, finer defenses and smoother skin that promote its shiftings in its natural environment made up of thick forests

From the trunk to the elephant’s tusks

Extension of the upper lip and nose, the elephant’s trunk consists of two long pipes fitted with thousands of muscles. Devoid of bones and weighing more than 100 kg, this flexible and prehensile it is used to suck up water and catch food to bring it to its mouth. The outgrowth at its end performs a function similar to a finger allowing to peel tiny plants. The proboscis also helps the mammal to carry objects, to communicate and to utter cries (trumpets). She can just as easily stroke a fellow creature as strike (fatally) an enemy. As for his defenses, they are in reality large incisors that develop throughout his life. They consist ofivory (like its teeth) and are used for fighting, digging, feeding or finding their bearings.

The elephant, exclusively vegetarian

This vegetarian animal feeds on herbs, leaves, roots, berries, fruits, tubers, plants or young twigs. The elephant is demanding and feels food for a long time with the end of its trunk to consume only the plants that it has shaken in order to remove the Earth. In the dry season, it likes the soft and juicy wood of baobabs from which it extracts the fiber with its tusks. The forest elephant consumes much more fruits than its savannah congeners and completes its menu with bark and herbaceous materials. In view of their weight, pachyderms have considerable food needs: between 150 and 220 kg per day depending on the season. The elephant also drinks in large quantities: from 70 to 100 liters of water daily.

The matriarchal organization of elephants

Animal gregarious, the elephant lives in a group of twenty to thirty individuals and to which it is deeply attached. A forced separation can make him aggressive or even depressive. A female aged and his descendants are at the heart of the structure matriarchal which accepts males until their sexual maturity. Around the age of 10-15, they are driven out of the clan and wander until they form a alliance with other young singles. From this wandering phase, males inherit a rather independent, unlike females who maintain close ties throughout their life within the herd where there is a strong sense of solidarity.

A birth under close surveillance

At the of 22 months gestation, the female gives birth under the protection of several elephants of the group. The baby elephant emerges head and front paws first and can stand up after a few minutes with the help of other females. The mother immediately swallows the placenta that litter the ground to avoid attracting predators. At birth, the little one already weighs 100 kg for a size of about 95 cm. Two days later, he can follow the herd, holding his mother’s tail so as not to get lost. She nurses her for six months and pampers her offspring with the support of the elephants of the clan, all endowed with a particularly developed maternal instinct.

The elephant, an animal in great danger

If the Lion may occasionally prey on baby elephants, no other natural predator dares confront the imposing adult pachyderm. However, the mammal attracts the lust of poachers who slaughter it for its meat, its skin and especially for its ivory. Illegal acts which generate a dramatic decrease in the population of this protected animal. The status of conservation of the elephant with the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) is as follows:

  • African savanna elephant: vulnerable;
  • African forest elephant and Asian elephant: endangeredextinction.

The life expectancy of an elephant is 60 to 70 years.

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