African elephant

Bull: Shoulder height 320 - 400 cm; tail 150 cm; mass 5000 - 6300 kg
Cow: Shoulder height 250 - 340 cm; tail 150 cm; mass 2800 - 3500 kg
An elephant cannot be mistaken for any other species. It is the largest land mammal in the world.
Apart from its large size it is characterized by the long trunk, large ears and the (normal) presence of tusks. The trunk is extremely mobile and almost as efficient as the human hand. The large ears serve as a display function but also assist in cooling the body. The backs of the ears are well supplied with blood vessels, and as the ears are flapped the blood is cooled. Elephants may also squirt water behind the ears to cool the blood. Tusks are characteristic of most elephants, although some individuals and even populations may be tuskless. Elephant tusks continue to grow throughout life but because of continuous wear and breakage they never reach their full potential length.
Extremely wide habitat tolerance as long as sufficient food, water and shade are available.
If left uncontrolled, herds that are gathering food may inflict considerable damage on the vegetation and destroy their own habitat, not only for themselves, but also for other species.
Elephants live in small families, each led by an older cow. The group consists of the matriarch and the offspring and may include other related cows with their young. Sometimes large herds are formed when a number of family groups come together, usually these gatherings take place when food is abundant or at water. The family groups retain their identity in such a gathering. The gatherings provide no reproductive or social benefits.
When adult cows are in breeding, adult bulls join the family herd. They leave to join bachelor groups afterwards.
Elephants are active both by night and by day. During the heat of the day elephants usualy rest in the shade. Generally the elephant is a peaceful animal, but it can become dangerous when wounded, sick or in defence of a small calf.
A very wide variety of plants. Although not specialized feeders they do show a marked preference for certain species, for which they will travel long distances. During the rains green grass forms a large percentage of their diet. An adult elephant may eat as much as 300 kg per day.
In preparation of the second punic war Hannibal's army crossed the Pyrenees, the Alps and many significant rivers to reach the Rhône with an army of 38000 infantry, 8000 cavalry, and thirty-seven war elephants.
Interesting links
Wikipedia - war elephants
Who wants to shoot an elephant, a report on one of the last elephant hunts in Botswana by Wells Tower


(en) Elephant
(sc) Loxondonta africana
(nl) Afrikaanse olifant
(af) Afrikaanse olifant