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Elephants

group of elephants of varying ages and sizes

The biggest animals to roam the land, elephants are a huge package of fascinating facts! There are two main species of elephants, African and Asian. African Elephants are the larger of the two, typically measuring between 8 and 13 feet in height and weighing around 2.5 to 7 tons. Asian Elephants are (slightly) smaller, between 6.6 to 9 feet in height and weighing between 2.25 to 5.5 tons. 

One of the most interesting features of an elephant is their long nose, called a trunk. Elephants use their trunk in a very similar way to how a human uses their hand. They lift things with it, use it to pull things apart, and to explore the world around them. An elephant’s trunk can lift up to 770 lbs, but can also do delicate tasks like picking a single leaf off a branch. 

Elephants have tight-knit social structures. Female elephants will travel in family herds with multiple generations traveling together. The herd is led by a matriarch who works to find food, water, and safe places to sleep. All the adult female elephants work together to care for new babies. Male elephants will separate from the main herd when they reach adulthood, often living on their own, but sometimes a group of male elephants will form a small “bachelor herd”.

Elephants are extremely intelligent. There are reports of elephants showing ability to cooperate and problem solve, performing tasks like using sticks to dig and working together to pull ropes to get food. Elephants also have the ability to express a wide range of complex emotions. Elephants show high levels of empathy for animals of other species. There have been many recorded instances of elephants saving other animals from dangerous situations.

An adult elephant walking through the bush
Baby elephant at Addo National Park in South Africa
Did You Know?: 
  • Besides African and Asian Elephants, African elephants are also broken down into two subspecies of Bush and Forest elephants.
  • Like a person can be left- or right-handed, elephants can be right- or left-tusked. The dominant tusk, called the master tusk, is generally more worn down, with a rounder tip.
  • An elephant uses mud as sunscreen, protecting its skin from ultraviolet light.
  • Elephants have big appetites, eating up to 330 lbs of food a day! Herds have been tracked walking anywhere between 6-112 miles a day to find food and water. 
  • When they swim, elephants use their trunk like a snorkel to breathe. 
  • Elephants are one of the few animal species other than humans to grieve. Elephants will bury the bones of other dead elephants, even carrying bones that have been separated to put in the grave.