species on the planet, and the largest living land animal. There are generally two recognized elephant species: The African elephant and the Asian elephant. They live in a range of habitats throughout Southern and Southeast Asia and in the sub-Saharan Africa. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), African elephants are vulnerable to extinction, while their Asian cousins are listed as endangered.
Elephants are one of the most fascinating and easily recognizable species on the planet.
11 Elephant facts: Fun things you didn’t know about the grey giant
#1 Slow life
Elephants can live for up to 70 years. The oldest recorded elephant died in captivity aged 86 years old .
Combine this with their slow reproductive rate and long gestation period, and it is obvious that decimated populations will take centuries to recover. They generally give birth every three or four years, but are pregnant for almost two years before giving birth – the longest time period of any land animal .
#2 Passionate eaters
Elephants can spend up to 16 hours eating every day in order to fuel their huge bodies.
This sometimes leads to conflicts with local farmers or villagers, as a single elephant has the ability to destroy a crop on its own in a matter of hours .
#3 Extreme coordination
The trunk of an elephant contains around 100,000 different muscles – yes, a hundred thousand muscles .
To put this in perspective, the entire human body only contains approximately 650 muscles .
This huge number of muscles allows the elephant to move its trunk in nearly any direction, and to perform any number of fine and coordinated movements.
#4 The surprising method of cooling
Along with hearing, the elephant’s ears have a second, extremely important function. They act as giant heat dispersal units.
Due to their huge size, elephants produce huge amounts of metabolic heat, and would therefore easily overheat without a way to get rid of it. Their large ears provide just one method of doing this .
#5 The largest terrestrial animal
Elephants are the largest extant land animal, and usually grow to a huge 7,000 kilograms (15,400 pounds) and four meters tall (13 feet) .
The largest elephant recorded weighed in at almost 11,000 kilograms (24,250 pounds) and stood 3.96 meters tall .
#6 Not much of a jumper
Elephants are the only mammal that can’t jump !
Perhaps this is due to their large size, or perhaps the ability to jump has simply been lost during the evolutionary process.
#7 Ears of a giant
A pair of ears from a bull elephant can weigh more than a person, or around 100 kilograms (220 pounds).
#8 Not only cats purr
Elephants purr in a similar manner to cats .
This is thought to be a method of communication or a way of expressing contentment.
#9 Heavy teeth
An elephants two largest teeth, usually known as tusks, can reach around 3 meters long (10 feet) and up to 90 kilograms (200 pounds) each . They are used for a number of things, including lifting, fighting, and digging for water.
Elephants also have four large molars, one in each corner of the mouth. Each of these is the size of a brick, and can weigh more than 2 kilograms (4.4 pounds) .
#10 Silent walkers
Due to their soft feet, elephants are able to walk almost silently – an incredible feat for an animal which weighs as much as a small truck!
#11 Matriarch families
Elephant form small family groups, usually containing around 10 members, which are ruled by a matriarch.
The matriarch is often the oldest and most experienced member of the family, and will rule until she no longer has the strength, at which time her eldest daughter will take over.
These are just some fascinating facts about the world’s largest land animal, the elephant.
If reading this has inspired you to learn more about this wonderful creature, then consider joining an elephant conservation group and helping to protect them for future generations to enjoy!