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African Elephant

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The common name is the African Elephant, the scientific name is Loxodonta Africana, the phylum is Vertebrata, the class is Mammalia, the order is Proboscidea, and the family is Elephantidae. The Closest Relatives to the African Elephant are: the Asian Elephant, mammoths, primitive proboscidean (mastodons), sea cows, and hyraxes. Scientists believe that the African Elephant evolved from one of its closest relatives, the Sea Cow.

The geographical location and range of the African elephant covers all of central and southern Africa. In Ethiopia there are isolated populations that exist around Lake Chad in Mali and Mauritania. Also in Kenya, Rhodesia, Tanzania, Zambia, Uganda, Zaire, and in National parks located in South Africa, as well as several other countries. African Elephants, originally, were found in all of the Sub-Saharan African habitats except desert steppes. Elephants still occupy diverse habitats such as: temperate grassland, tropical savanna and grass lands, temperate forest and rainforest, tropical rainforest, tropical scrub forest, and tropical deciduous forest despite their drastic decline in numbers. However, their migratory patterns and habitat use have changed, due to the fact that they are restricted to protected areas.

The elephant can exist in many types of environments but it prefers places that have

many trees and bushes, which the elephant needs both for food and shade. They also like warm areas that have plenty of rainfall. This ensures plenty of food, shade, and water. The elephant prefers a habitat of mixed woodland and grassland which gives them an opportunity to eat a variety of vegetation. African Elephants are considered herbivores, they are both browsers and grazers; they will eat rough sticks, stems and leaves of plants as well as grasses, sedges, and fruit. Their favorites are mangoes, berries and coconuts. An elephant eats up to 500 pounds of vegetation every day and drinks up to 50 gallons of water daily. Elephants must consume these giant quantities of food, due to their poor digestive system.

The small intestine is 82 feet long, the large intestine 21 feet long, and the rectum adds a further 13 feet. The problem with the digestive tract lies in their gut; elephants have too few symbiotic bacteria. These are the organisms which help break down the cellulose of plant cell walls by producing enzymes called cellulases. The most remarkable feature of the elephant’s digestive system is its 5 feet long appendix, bigger than the stomach. Proteins, starches, and sugars are digested in the appendix. The elephant will excrete almost 200 pounds a day of semi-digested food.

Elephants live together in strong family units which might have as few as two or as many as twenty members. When the group gets too big, it splits up; but the groups stay in close contact. Elephant life revolves around this unit which is usually headed by the oldest female. The family offers protection, aid, comfort, and teaching to all of its members. Within the units are cows, calves, and bulls. The male bulls are very solitary and most of the time travel only with other males, except during mating season when the bulls travel with the pack looking for a mate. The males remain with the family unit until they are about fourteen and then leave the family to join the other males.

The African elephant usually gives birth to one calf every four years. The gestation period is approximately twenty to twenty two years. The newborn calf, which weighs 200-300 pounds and stands about three feet high, is cared for by all of the females in the pack, not just by the mother. The calf may nurse as long as eight years, or until its tusks are too long for the mother. It takes about 14 to 15 years for an elephant to fully mature. They grow to about 10-13 feet tall and 7.5 meters in length and weigh as much as 7 tons. The family will remain together throughout their lives.

The elephant’s body has many special features which it has adapted throughout the centuries to help it survive in its environment. The most important part of the elephant’s body is its trunk. An elephant uses its trunk for many things. With it, the elephant can pick up objects that weigh as much as 600 lbs. This powerful trunk is also used to beat off attacking animals and sometimes mother elephants use their trunks to swat their babies. The trunk, which is very flexible, can curl over the elephant’s head so that the elephant can give itself showers and dust baths. The trunk also curls towards the elephant’s mouth so it can eat and drink. At the end

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