King-sized and Majestic: The African Elephant
The African Elephant is a large mammal that can be found primarily in the Kruger National Park. The African Elephant is the largest land mammal on earth, weighing in at over 7 Tonnes and reaching 3.3 meters shoulder height. Elephants have a lifespan of about 70 years. The Tusks of an animal is surely one of an elephant’s most iconic features, the tusks can weigh up to 60kg each and have also been recorded weighing 90kg each. The Ears of an elephant are used for more than just hearing, it uses its ears to communicate its emotions by waving its ears differently to convey different emotions. The Elephant’s large ears also help to control the elephant’s body temperature. The elephant’s hide is surprisingly not very thick but it is very hard, which protects it from scratches and other sharp impacts.
Elephants have a tremendous appetite and can consume up to 270kg of grass, bark and shoots a day. It is sometimes difficult to comprehend how much food they actually consume. In a single session, an elephant can drink an astounding 200 litres of water. With such a voracious appetite, the outcome of all this feeding leads to about 150kgs worth of dung every day, which is about a dollop every 5 minutes or so.
African Elephants aren’t seasonal breeders and will only produce a single calf every 3 or 4 years or so. Their gestation period lasts about 22 months and the new born calf weighs 100kg. The young are usually fully weaned between 18 – 24 months. If a calf gets abandoned it will be adopted by a lactating female from another herd. Elephants are very protective and attentive mothers and they teach the calves all they need to know while they are kept close to the mother. The tusks only start to erupt at 16 months but will only start to show after 30 months. Males that reach sexual maturity are exiled from the herd and from bachelor herds. These herds will travel and look for suitable females to mate with. The Maternal herds are always led by a much older and mature female. Elephants from the same family group can live in the same area and actually know each other well. Elephants have a few warning signs that they give before actually attacking. If an elephant is winging its head around and bashing trees and bushes, throws up dust and trumpets it is a mock charge designed to scare off what is agitating them. When they start to get aggressive, they will flap their ears around and shake their heads. When all attempts to scare away have failed, it will put its ears against its head and attempt to charge.
Because of poaching elephant numbers have dropped considerably and aren’t found as prominently in South Africa. Their numbers have been steadily increasing but are mostly found in the Kruger National Park, which can be seen during Kruger Park Safaris, and the Addo Elephant Park