Elephants are highly intelligent animals whose continued existence is threatened. Loss of habitat, human-elephant conflict, and poaching for ivory and bushmeat are great threats to elephant populations.
As of 2013, the Asian elephant population had experienced a 90 percent decline in the past 100 years and some experts suggest 95 percent of their original habitat has been lost over the same period.
Estimates vary, but most agree that there has been a 75 percent decline in the elephant population in Africa.
Today there are thought to be between 300,000 and 500,000 wild elephants in Africa and less than 60,000 wild elephants in Asia. Asian elephants are recognized as an endangered species. African elephants are recognized as threatened.
Facts About African Elephants
Now, Let’s see some of the interesting facts about African Elephants.
- Baby elephants stay with mum for up to 10 years. They even learn to eat by putting their trunks inside their mothers’ mouths to take food.
- The African elephant has the largest brain in the animal kingdom – it can weigh up to 5kg! This is amazing when you consider how much an elephant weighs ( African elephants weigh up to 6000kg!). The human brain, however, is larger when measured as a proportion of our total body weight.
- The average life span of an elephant is 50-70 years, the same as humans, but the oldest known elephant in the world was 86 when he died.
- Elephant family groups are very close. While they can’t exactly hug each other, elephants do wrap their trunks around younger relatives to reassure them, and to greet each other they twine their trunks together.
- Elephants walk at about 4mph, and they are able to swim long distances. They are, however, the only mammal that can’t jump. How fast can elephants run? Elephants have been clocked to run at 15 mph, however it is believed that, over a very short distance, elephants could run as fast as 25mph.
- Elephants consume 200kg of food and 200 gallons of water every day.
- Their Digestion system is very poor hence digesting 30 to 40 percent of food they consume daily
- The shortest trunk in an elephant show they are either left or right-handed
- Elephants bury their dead colleagues by covering them with trunks, branches, and leave, and they mourn just like humans.
- They have very sharp memories. They can remember something 10yrs later without getting lost
- Their trunks are believed to have more than 100,000 nerves, which means they can even pick a very small object size of a thorn or grass with their trunk.
- Elephants have very poor eyesight
- Elephants have a very high sense of smell and hearing
- Female elephants gestation period is 22 months
- From reports, Elephants have in recent years generated a resistant gene to not grow tusks, maybe due to the intense poaching being witnessed in Africa.
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Some Importance of Elephants in the African Ecosystem
As well as having fascinating anatomy and behavior characteristics, elephants also play an essential role in delicate African ecosystems.
Their huge size means that they can shape the landscape that they are in – as they move around and feed, they create clearings in wooded areas, which lets light in so that new plants can grow and smaller animals can survive.
They are also a very important form of seed dispersal; elephant dung often contains undigested seeds which are then spread widely around the area as the animals travel – sometimes these seeds are too big for smaller animals to eat, making elephants a vital carrier for these plants.
Elephant dung is also an important resource for humans – their nutrient-rich manure replenishes depleted soils so that humans can have a nutrient-rich soil to plant crops in.
Elephants are important for other animals within the environment too. They dig waterholes when river beds are dry that other animals can use as a water source, and their large footprints can create deep holes for water to collect in.
The wide trails that they carve through the vegetation as they move through the landscape can also act as fire breakers and water run-offs, and make it easier for humans and other animals to access the forest and brush.
Challenges Facing Elephant Population include:-
- Human-Wildlife Conflicts:- Humans have in recent years taken elephant spaces and resourced them for other use like farming and settlement. This makes it complicated for wildlife or elephants to settle near them as they see them as a big threat.
- Poaching:- Being the most notorious factors, elephant numbers keep deteriorating during to markets demanding elephant tusks. This has made it tough for these gentle giants to survive.
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