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Amazing Facts About the African Bush Elephant

Shrinivas Kanade
The African bush elephant doesn't just boast of being the largest of the three species of elephants, but is in fact the largest animal living on land and the second largest living animal on the Earth, after the blue whale.
African bush elephants (Loxodonta africana) are found in savanna grasslands of Africa and thus, are also referred to as Savanna elephants. They belong to the Loxodonta genus of the Elephantidae family.
Experts are still debating on whether to make a distinction between African bush elephants and African forest elephants (Loxodonta cyclotis), or group them as a single species, under the umbrella term 'African elephants'. Owing to lack of evidence to support the classification, the two are considered separate species as of now.

Details on the African Bush Elephant

  • The natural habitat of this species extends from the Sahara desert to the southern tip of Africa.
  • The species can weigh more than 8 tons, and measure 6 - 7 meters in length and has a height of more than 4 meters (approximately 13 feet).
  • These elephants have large brains weighing approximately 5 kg, which makes them more intelligent as compared to their Asian cousin.
  • Similarly, they are more wrinkled and have larger ears than both, the African forest elephant and Asian elephant.
  • They are herbivorous animals and spend most of their day eating grass, branches of trees, and fruits. Their digestive system is weak and they can digest only up to 40% of their food.
  • Adult male elephants or 'bulls' rarely walk with their herd. Matriarchs, i.e., the eldest females or cows, lead the herd comprising young calves and females. Adult males are solitary in nature and unite only for mating.
  • Females emit low frequency sound waves or 'calls' to attract males. These calls can be heard over an area of up to 50 square kilometers. Bull elephants use their strong-smelling urine to attract compatible females.
  • Gestation period in elephants is of 23 months, which is slightly longer than Asian elephants who have a gestation period of 22 months.
  • Man is their only 'predator'. However, young calves can fall prey to hyenas, lions, leopards, and crocodiles as well.
  • They are often hunted for economic value of their tusks, skin, and bones. Even though ivory poaching and its sale is banned, the slaughter of elephants continues.
  • Savanna elephants can run fast and are excellent swimmers, however, they cannot jump.
  • They use their trunk, which has 40,000 muscles, as a tool to hold water. They can drink 10 to 15 liters of water at a time and 200 liters in a day.
  • They can smell the presence of underground water.
  • The trunk of this largest terrestrial animal weighs 140 kilograms, while its tongue and heart weigh 12 and 22 kilograms respectively.
  • Musth secretion is a periodic condition in male elephants and is accompanied by rise in reproductive hormones.
  • Bush elephants are emotional creatures who cry, laugh, and play. They even grieve at the death of their young ones and adults.
  • Though they are known to live for 70 years, there is one particular record of an African bush elephant living for 82 years.
  • On an average, their newborn elephant calf weighs 100 kg.
  • Botswana has the largest population of elephants in the world.
  • An African bush elephant emits approximately about 2,000 liters of methane gas everyday.
These elephants, because of their declining population, are listed as Vulnerable species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).