Elephants - Elephantidae
The Elephant is an emotive and iconic animal.
Indian Elephants ( Elephas maximus indicus) are an important cultural icon in India. According to mythology, the gods (deva) and the demons (asura) churned the oceans in a search of the elixir of life - 'amrit' (nectar) - to become immortal. As they did, the 'navratnas' (nine jewels) surfaced, one of which was the elephant.
Consequently, the elephant is treasured, preserved and protected.
The Indian elephant can stand almost 10 feet in height and weigh about 6 to 8 tons. Their skin color is dark gray to brown, with patches of pink on the forehead, ears, base of the trunk and chest.|
Asian elephants are extremely sociable, forming groups of up to 10 animals, led by the oldest female, the 'matriarch'. Like African elephants, these groups occasionally join others to form herds, although these associations are relatively transient.
Young Asian elephants can stand soon after birth and follow their mother in her daily routine after a few days. It stays under supervision of its mother for several years, but start their independence around 4 years of age.
Both sexes may become sexually mature at as early as 9 years, but males usually do not reach sexual activity until 14-15 years.
Female elephants usually give birth to a calf, weighing about 150 pounds, every 3 to 4 years under ideal circumstances, otherwise birth may occur every 5 to 8 years.
Their diet include grasses, tree bark, roots, leaves and small stems. Cultivated crops such as bananas, rice and sugarcane are favored, bringing them to occasional conflict with farmers. Most of the day is spent eating and they are always close to a source of fresh water since they need to drink daily.
The African elephant (Loxodonta africana) is the largest living terrestrial mammal, with the largest recorded individual reaching a height of over 12 feet at the shoulder and weighing over 10 tons. The African elephant’s brain is bigger than any other land animal and its skull is exceptionally large, having evolved to support the trunk and the heavy teeth and jaws. The skull comprises up to 25 percent of the elephant’s total body weight.
The African elephant occurs largely in eastern, southern and western Africa while their Asian cousins are now restricted to isolated fragments in parts of Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, China, Laos, Malaysia and Indonesia. The greatest threat to the population of the world's elephant's is the ivory trade, conducted primarily in Asia, which leads to the relentless poaching and slaughter. The secondary threat is the loss of their habitat due to human encroachment.
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