Can elephants swim?
What do elephants look like?
Elephants belong to the order of the trunk animals and form the elephant family. What they have in common is the typical shape:
The mighty body, the big ears and the long trunk as well as the four column-like legs, the soles of which are made of a thick pad. They act like shock absorbers and thus help to bear the enormous weight of the animals.
Asian elephants can grow up to three meters high, weigh up to five tons and measure between five and a half and six and a half meters from head to tail.
The tail becomes up to one and a half meters long. It ends in a tassel made of hair. They usually have five toes on their front feet and four on their back feet.
African elephants can reach heights of up to 3.20 meters, weigh up to five tons and are six to seven meters long. The tail measures about a meter. They have four toes on their front feet and only three on their back feet.
Forest elephants are the smallest species: they reach a height of only 2.40 meters. In all species, the females are smaller than the males.
The upper jaw's vaginal teeth have been transformed into typical tusks. The bulls of the African elephants can grow to be over three meters long and weigh over 200 kilograms.
The tusks of the female African elephant are much smaller. In the Asian elephant, only the males have tusks.
Another distinguishing feature are the ears: they are much larger in the African elephants than in their Asian relatives and can be up to two meters long.
The trunks are not the same either: Asian elephants only have one finger-like muscle extension on their trunk that they can use to grip, while African elephants have two. These face each other at the end of the trunk.
The skin of the elephant is up to three centimeters thick, but still very sensitive. In baby elephants it is thickly hairy.
The bigger the animals get, the more they lose their hair. Adult animals only have hair on the eyes and tail end.
Where do elephants live?
Today there are African elephants mainly in southern Africa, forest elephants in the Congo Basin. Wild Asian elephants still live in small numbers in India, Thailand, Burma and parts of Indonesia.
African elephants roam the savannahs and steppes of Africa, while the forest elephants - as their name suggests - mainly live in the forests of West Africa.
Asian elephants are extremely rare in the wild: They are also mainly found in forest regions.
What types of elephants are there?
Today three species of elephants are known: the Asian elephant (Elephas maximus), the African elephant (Loxodonta africana) and the forest elephant (Loxodonta cyclotis), which was long considered a subspecies of the African elephant.
Some researchers also divide the Asian elephant into several subspecies.
How old do elephants get?
Elephants live to an old age: they can live for up to 60 years. Individual animals can even live to be 70 years old.
How do elephants live?
Elephants are among the most intelligent mammals. They are pure herd animals that stay together for generations.
There are 20 to 30 animals in a group, most of which are led by an old female, the lead cow. It brings the herd to the best feeding and watering places.
Elephants are known for their social behavior: the herd protects the young animals together, "elephant aunts" also take care of the young of other females with great devotion. Injured or old animals also enjoy the protection and care of the herd. Elephants even seem to mourn their dead conspecifics.
Thanks to their excellent memory, not only do they know who is part of the herd, but they can still remember troublemakers or people who did something to them years later.
Adult bull elephants stay away from the herd and only come to the females to mate.
Younger males have to leave the herd at around 15 years of age and then live together in real "bachelor groups". Old cops are often quite intolerable comrades and roam around alone.
Bull elephants also regularly get into the so-called "musht": This leads to hormonal changes in behavior, and the animals can be very aggressive during this time. The musht has nothing to do with the animals' willingness to mate, their function has not yet been clarified.
The typical feature of all elephants is the trunk, which emerged from the upper lip and nose: It has thousands of different muscles that are arranged around the two nostrils.
The trunk is a versatile tool: of course, it is used for breathing. The animals hold him up in the air to smell it.
Elephants can also use their trunks to grip and pluck leaves and branches from trees from a height of up to seven meters. And thanks to sensitive whiskers on the tip of the trunk, elephants can feel and feel with their trunk very well.
To drink, they suck up several liters of water about 40 centimeters high, close the end with their proboscis fingers and squirt the water into their mouths.
Because elephants have a small body surface in relation to their body mass, they can only give off little heat. For this reason, they have very large ears that are well supplied with blood and with which they can regulate body temperature.
When they move their ears - waving them - they give off body heat. Elephants are also passionate about bathing and splashing themselves with water: the cool bath also helps them to lower their body temperature when it is very hot.
Wild elephant herds sometimes travel long distances to find enough food. They are usually quite leisurely on the move: they hike at around five kilometers per hour through the savannahs and forests. In the event of danger, however, they can be up to 40 kilometers per hour.
Friends and enemies of the elephants
Adult elephants hardly have any enemies. But if they feel threatened or if their young are in danger, attack their opponents: they spread their ears wide and raise their trunks. Then they roll up their trunks, run towards the enemy with their heads down and simply run over him with their huge bodies.
Bull elephants also sometimes fight with each other by running towards each other and pushing each other away. These fights can be so intense that even the tusks break off.
How do elephants reproduce?
Elephants can mate all year round. The gestation period is very long: a cow elephant does not give birth to her young until two years after mating.
It weighs over 100 kilograms at birth and is one meter high. Baby elephants get on their legs shortly after birth - supported by their mother's trunk. They can walk two to three hours later.
At first, a calf only gets the mother's milk: To do this, it sucks with its mouth on the mother's teats between its front legs. Little by little the little ones also begin to pluck blades of grass with their trunk.
From the age of two, a baby elephant only feeds on vegetable food. The tusks only begin to grow between the ages of one and three.
Elephants are only fully grown between the ages of 12 and 20 and only then become sexually mature. In the course of its life, a female elephant can give birth to up to ten young.
How do elephants communicate?
Elephants communicate with each other mainly with sounds. They trumpet loudly when there is danger and stress.
Usually, however, they communicate using very deep sounds, so-called infrasound. It is imperceptible to our ears. Elephants can "talk" to each other over a distance of kilometers.
The contact with the trunk, the mutual sniffing and touching serve to communicate.
What do elephants eat?
Elephants are pure herbivores. They consume leaves, grass, roots and bark. Because their food is relatively poor in nutrients, an adult animal needs up to 200 kilograms of food a day. Elephants therefore spend around 16 hours a day looking for and eating.
They also need huge amounts of water: an adult animal drinks up to 100 liters a day. If you do not find enough water at the watering points in the dry season, use your tusks and trunk to dig meter-deep holes to get water.
People and elephants have a long history in common: Asian elephants have been kept as workhorses for thousands of years. Today they are rarely used to carry loads.
But because they are considered sacred in Asia, the animals can still often be found in temple complexes there.
Both Asian and African elephants are kept in zoos. The Asians, however, are considered more sociable than their spirited African relatives. And because elephants are very docile, you can see them in many circus arenas.
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