Life of an Elephant
The elephant is the largest land animal. It has a long nose, big floppy ears, and fat legs. The adult elephant has two large tusks made of a substance called ivory. The two species of elephant are the Asian elephant and the African elephant. African elephants are larger than the Asian elephants. They grow eight to thirteen feet tall and weigh five thousand to fourteen thousand pounds. Asian elephants grow six to nine feet tall and weigh four thousand to ten thousand pounds. The elephants living in the savanna or flat open land have curved tusks. Those who live in more wooded areas have small straight tusks which help them push through dense bushes.
Asian elephants live in the scrubland and rainforests of India, Nepal and Southeast Asia. African elephants live south of the Sahara Desert, in central and west Africa and in Mali. They are herbivores and eat grasses, bark, and roots. They use their tusks to dig up roots and strip the bark off trees. An adult elephant can eat as much as three hundred pounds of food a day.
The oldest female called the matriarch leads the group of elephants which is called a herd. Adult males often wander around on their own. Females, older males, and young elephants usually make up the herd. The matriarch will teach her children certain rules of elephant behavior. When greeting another elephant, the first elephant raises its trunk.
Bulls are the male elephants. Cows are the female elephants. The baby elephant is a calf. It adds two to three pounds of growth a day for the first year. Even after just four months, young elephants start to learn how to use their trunks. The babies will be weaned from nursing between two and three years of age. The males just wander off and the females stay with their mothers. Females will have their own babies between the ages of thirteen and twenty. In the wild, elephants can live thirty to fifty years.
The ears of an African elephant look like the continent of Africa when they are stretched out. The largest elephant known was an African elephant. It was twenty-five thousand pounds and thirteen feet tall. In hot weather, an African elephant sucks water in with his trunk and then blows it back out to cool himself. An Asian elephant has smaller ears than an African elephant.
One hundred thousand muscles make up an elephant's trunk. An elephant uses his trunk to smell, drink, pick things up and make noises. Every elephant has a dominant tusk just like humans are right-handed or left-handed. The tusk most often used will be more worn down than the other. An elephant's skin is one inch thick. To protect its sensitive skin from the sun, an elephant will cover itself with mud or dust.
Elephants carry their babies in their womb for twenty-two months. A female usually has one calf every three to six years. The whole herd pitches in to help take care of newborns. Young females are in training to become mothers while they take care of the young. They are called allomothers.
The number of elephants is slowly decreasing because they do not reproduce as fast as they are killed by poachers. Poachers are people who kill elephants to take their tusks and sell them to ivory dealers. Dealers around the world want the tusks to make jewelry, crafts, musical instruments and religious objects. Elephants may become extinct very soon due to the poaching.
To prevent the extinction of the elephants, governments need to set up portions of land which will be safe from poachers. China has made a law that beginning in 2018, no one can buy or sell ivory in the country.
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