The largest land mammals in the world are elephants and include two different species, African and Asian elephants. The African elephant's length can grow from 8.2 to 13 feet from shoulder to toe and weigh between 5,000 to 14,000 pounds. The smaller Asian elephant grows up to 6.6 to 9.8 feet from shoulder to toe and weighs between 4,500 to 11,000 pounds.
The largest elephant ever recorded lived in the San Diego Zoo and was 24,000 pounds and 13 feet tall. The trunk of an adult elephant is about 7 feet long and is actually an elongated nose and upper lip, which they also use for smelling. The trunk of an elephant also includes about 100,000 muscles which help it to breathe, pick up things, drink, smell, and make noises.
The African elephants live in sub-Saharan Africa, the Sahel desert in Mali, and the rainforests of Central and West Africa. The Asian elephants live in scrub forests and rainforests found in Nepal, India and Southeast Asia.
African elephants are identified by their ears and when stretched out, they are shaped like the continent of Africa. The Asian elephant's ears are smaller, more rounded on top, and flat along the bottom. In addition, the Asian elephant is an endangered species and it is unknown how many still exist. On the other hand, the African elephant is vulnerable but there are around 470,000 of them roaming the planet.
Elephants are herbivores and eat only grasses, roots, fruit, and bark. They use their strong tusks to pull bark from trees and dig roots out of the ground. Most adult elephants can eat about 300 pounds of food in one day and can suck as much as 2 gallons of water through its trunk at one time, drinking about 60 gallons each day. Once it is inside the trunk, the elephant curls it under and sticks the tip of the trunk into its mouth, and blows, sending the water down the elephant's throat.
They may also use their trunks to blow a trunkful of cool water over their bodies, especially the African elephants since they live where the sun is usually quite hot. Following the spray of water, they sometimes sprinkle some dust onto their bodies as a protective layer of dirt on their skin in the same way they spray the water. The elephants also use their trunks as snorkels when they wade in the deep water, and when threatened, they use their trunks to make loud trumpeting noises as a warning.
A group of elephants is called a herd and is led by a matriarch, the oldest female in the group. The females and the young and old elephants stick together in a herd, while the adult males wander on their own. Young males, called calves, remain a part of the herd until they are about 15 years old. As social creatures, elephants sometimes hug by wrapping their trunks together in displays of greeting and affection.
In the wild, a mother elephant will get help with the babies from other elephants called Aunties, who will also help the mother raise the baby. The baby gains about 2 to 3 pounds every day until its first birthday and will stay with the mother for about 13 to 20 years. In all, elephants can live in the wild for about 30 to 50 years.
Finally, elephants are known to have very good memories, are very emotional, are scared of dogs, and are so clever, they sometimes play jokes on humans.
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