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WHAT IS THE ELEPHANT?

African elephants are the largest landbased animals or mammals alive today in the world. They can grow to lengths up to 7,5 m and weights up to 7500 kilograms.



Other interesting facts are the elephants large ears, the strong legs ressembling columns, it's tusks and the trunk, of course. The trunk is a multi-purpose tool. It is used to carry food and water to the mouth, to scent, to grope for things and as a tool to move things. It can also be used as a weapon if the Elephant needs to defend itself.













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African elephants inhabit different parts of that continent, just south of the Sahara. Lately, their distribution range is just one third of the area they inhabited in previous times. They are found in savannas, in forests, semi-deserts and in mountain regions up to 5000 m above sea level.

Common groups of African elephants consists of several females and their young. Most females in the group are closely related. Males form groups of their own. They join up with the females during the mating season. Some older males live and lonely or solitary life. The young are born after a gestation period of about two years. Longer then the typical 9 month period in humans.

When giving birth the mother is supported by other females. These females help the mother caring for her young during the early time of its life. The young elephant is weaned after two years. Elephants reach sexual maturity anywher from seven to twelve years of age. African elephants live for up to 70 years.

Most elephants are vegetarians. Their diet consists of grass, but also branches, leaves, fruits, buds and tubers. Elephants have bad digestive systems so they must spend most of their time searching for food and eating.

PREDATORS: Most elephants are too large to worry about predators. But there are some animals which might be dangerous to young elephants. Those are Hyaenas, Crocodiles and Lions.

Elephant ivory was one used as a source of all kinds of ornaments. In 1989 international laws against "ivory-trading" were created to help declining elephant populations recover. Another problem is the overdevelopment of the areas inhabited by African elephants. Elephants have to constantly migrate in the search for food. If they meet human settlements, conflicts will surely arise, because they destroy fields while searching for food. This conflict has become the most important Elephant issue in recent years.

Some South African states are pursuing a policy of loosening the laws against "ivory-trading". They want to allow controlled hunting on African elephants. Loosening the laws will also encourage illegal hunting, because selling ivory would be lucrative once again. Perhaps this would mean the irreversible end of the elephant.


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