Classification of African Elephant. • Kingdom: Animalia • Phylum: Chordata (having notochord). • Subphylum: vertebrate • Class: Mammalia (having mammary glands) • Sub-class: Theria (Bearing live young) • Infraclass:Eutheria • Order: Proboscidea • Family:Elephantidae • Genus:Loxodonta • Species:africana • Common name: African Elephant
There are two subspecies which differ in their geographic location, tusk length, and weight. • The Forest elephants,Loxodontaafricanacyclotis typically reside in rain forests. They have slender tusks and are smaller in height and weight. • The Savannah/Desert elephants (Loxodontaafricanaafricana) which are usually found in grasslands.
Morphology • African elephants are the heaviest terrestrial animal weighing about 3600 to 6000 kg, and the second tallest in the Animal Kingdom. • They have enormous/huge ears, each measuring about four feet (120-125 cm) across. • African elephants have dark thick grey skin, which is scattered with black hairs, but adults are hairless.
Morphology • They have a unique nose, called a trunk, that is strong long and boneless extending from the upper lip. It has two finger-like projections on the tip making them dexterous (they can pick a blade of grass). • Their incisor teeth have developed into tusks about 8 feet long and can weigh about 60 kg each. • The only other teeth they are four molars, which are replaced three times throughout their lives after the previous set wear down.
Habitat & Distribution • African elephants live in many parts of sub-saharan Africa, where they can find enough food and water, although their range is now broken into patches. • In some regions, they occur in desert areas; in others, they are found in mountains. • Small numbers of forest elephants live in dense equatorial forests of Central Africa from Zaire west to Mauritania. • While savanna elephants are far more widespread in drier woodlands and savannas. • Savanna elephants are now most common in Kenya, Tanzania, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, and South Africa.
Behavior • African elephants wander day and night in non-territorial herds that can reach up to 200 elephants during the rains. • Their society is based on a social matriarchal community. The matriarch is the oldest female who leads a clan of 9 to 11 elephants. • Only closely related females and their offspring are part of this herd. • Males wander alone once they reach maturity. • The herd’s well being depends on the guidance of the matriarch. • She determines when they eat, rest, bathe and drink.
Behavior • They communicate through body language, such as by shaking the head, spreading the ears and raising the trunk. • Much of their communication (vocalizations) cannot be heard by humans, as they make low frequency rumblings and deep noises that can travel for kilometers • Elephants have an acute sense of smell, and communicate by smell and touch - often one elephant will place its trunk into another’s mouth as a greeting or reassurance in moments of stress.
Reproduction • Elephants do not have any specific mating season. • After a 22-month gestation period, single calve is born weighing about 265 pounds (120-130 kg), twins are rare. • The calves are precocial as they can see, smell, and almost walk a short time after birth. • Females give birth every four to nine years. • Older calves are weaned a few months before the next is born.
Reproduction • Sexual maturity is reached between 10 and 12 years of age. • A females' estrus period lasts for about forty-eight hours. • A bull in a state of sexual aggression and activity, must determine if the female elephant is in estrus by smelling her genitals. • Larger males with the largest tusks are usually around fifty years old and do most of the copulations. • Males constantly search for mates and rarely stay for more than a few weeks with a female and her herd.
Feeding Habits • Bulk feeders, that means they are relatively unspecialized herbivores but relies on a diet of browsers supplement by grass • Elephants eat vegetation like leaves, roots, bark, grasses and fruit. • Each day they can consume anywhere from 220 to 660 pounds (100 to 300 kg) of food, and drink up to 50 gallons (190 L) of water. • During the rainy seasons elephants eat grass and herbs like papyrus (Cyperus papyrus) and cat tails (Typha augustifolia). • During dry seasons in the savannah they eat leaves collected from thorny trees and bushes.
Sex Determination • Bulls is normally larger being 3min height and weight being up to 6.5 tons • Female can stand at 2.5m and weigh 3.5 tons • Females are aggressive than males. • Males have massive, rounded head while females have smaller pointed head. • Males posses thicker and more conical tusks while females have slandered tusks.
Life span of African Elephant • The average life span of an African elephant in the wild is about 60 to 70 years.
Conservation status of African Elephant • Currently, the conservation status of African Elephant is threatened as their population is limited to several Protected Areas in Africa due to poaching and habitat destruction. • They are also listed as being endangered on the World Conservation Union's Red List of Threatened Animals.
REFFERENCE: • Jonathan Kingdom (2008). The Kingdom Field Guide to African Mammals, London • Jean Dorst and Pierre Dandelot (1970).Larger Mammals of Africa, Hong Kong • Richard Despard Estes, the behaviour guide to Afican mammals.
Prepared by: HOMBO BAJUTA. HUSSEIN LORENE. IMANI ELISHA. JAREDY MAKONGORO ISSA MOHAMMED