Saturday, November 15, 2014
African Bush Elephant
African Bush Elephant Classification and Evolution
The African Bush Elephant is the largest of all living creatures on land today, with some individuals growing to weigh more than 6 tons. The Elephant is thought to have been named after the Greek word for ivory, meaning that Elephants were named for their uniquely long tusks. Although many of the ancestors of the African Bush Elephant became extinct during the last ice-age (including the Woolly Mammoth), there are three distinct species of Elephant remaining today which are the Asian Elephant (of which there are a number of sub-species), the African Bush Elephant and the African Forest Elephant. Although these two Elephant species are very similar, the African Bush Elephant is considered to be generally larger than the African Forest Elephant, which has rounder ears and straighter tusks.
The African Bush Elephant is the largest known land mammal on Earth, with male African Bush Elephants reaching up to 3.5 metres in height and the females being slightly smaller at around 3 metres tall. The body of the African Bush Elephants can also grow to between 6 and 7 meters long. The tusks of an African Bush Elephant can be nearly 2.5 meters in length and generally weigh between 50 and 100 pounds, which is about the same as a small adult Human. African Bush Elephants have four molar teeth each weighing about 5.0 kg and measuring about 12 inches long. As the front pair of molars in the mouth of the African Bush Elephant wear down and drop out in pieces, the back pair shift forward and two new molars emerge in the back of the African Bush Elephant's mouth. African Bush Elephants replace their teeth six times during their lives but when the African Bush Elephant is between 40 to 60 years old, it no longer has teeth and will likely die of starvation, which is sadly a common cause of death of Elephants in the African wilderness.
Although the historical range of it's ancestors ranged right into the Arctic Circle, today the African Bush Elephant is mainly found in central and southern Africa in nomadic herds that wander the plains and grasslands of Africa grazing for food and searching for waterholes. Unlike the slightly smaller African Forest Elephant, the African Bush Elephant inhabits the grassy savanna plains and shrub-land of the African continent in groups that contain mothers and their calves. Generally African Bush Elephant herds contains around 10 individuals but it is not uncommon for family groups to join together, forming a clan which can contains over 1,000 Elephants. This very social lifestyle means that the African Bush Elephants are less vulnerable on the open African plains.
Not only is the African Bush Elephant an incredibly sociable mammal but it is also a very active one. African Bush Elephants are nomadic animals meaning that they are constantly on the move in search of food, so moving within these family herds allows them to have greater protection both from predators and from the elements. The trunk of the African Bush Elephant is one of it's most distinguishing features and this extra long nose is not only flexible enough to gather and handle food but can also collect water. It's trunk, along with it's tusks can also be used to defend itself from predators such as Lions, and to fight with other male African Bush Elephants during the mating season. African Bush Elephants are also considered to be highly intelligent and emotional animals displaying behaviours that include giving and receiving love, caring deeply for the young and grieving for dead relatives.
African Bush Elephants tend to live relatively long lives, with the average life span being between 60 and 70 years, Female African Bush Elephants reach sexual maturity (are able to reproduce) after 10 or 11 years, but are thought to be most fertile between the ages of 25 and 45. Male African Bush Elephants however, often don't reach sexual maturity until they are nearly 20 years old. After mating and a gestation period of up to 2 years, the female African Bush Elephant gives birth to a single calf (twins have been known but are extremely rare). The African Bush Elephant calf is nursed for 2 years but will remain under the guidance and protection of the herd until it is old enough to support itself (around 6 years old). It is at this point that the tusks of the African Bush Elephant calf will be starting to grow.
African Bush Elephant Diet and Prey
Despite it's immense size, the African Bush Elephant is a herbivorous mammal meaning that it survives on a diet that solely consists of plants and plant matter. The bulk of the African Bush Elephant's diet is comprised of leaves and branches that are stripped off the trees and bushes using it's trunk. The African Bush Elephant also grazes on fruits and grasses and uses it's immense tusks for digging for roots in the ground and to strip the bark of trees. Food is fed into it's mouth using the trunk, and the large, flat teeth of the African Bush Elephant are then the perfect tool for grinding the vegetation and course plants down so that they can then be more easily digested.
African Bush Elephant Predators and Threats
The African Bush Elephant has no real natural predators to threaten its survival, mainly due to it's sheer size and the fact that African Bush Elephants often remain within the safety of the herd. African Bush Elephants are Africa's peaceful giants and can be seen co-inhabiting the African wilderness with other large mammals and birds, without problem. In the animal world, Lions and Hyenas may occasionally be able to pick off a young African Bush Elephant that has been separated from it's mother and have also been known to attack adults that are old and sick and therefore more vulnerable. Humans that poach the African Bush Elephants for their ivory tusks are the biggest threat to their survival along with habitat loss across the continent.
African Bush Elephant Interesting Facts and Features
In the early 19th century, the story of the African Bush Elephant was very different with their being up to 5 million individuals thought to have been roaming the African continent. However due to the increased demand for ivory, Africa's Bush Elephant population is thought to have fallen as much as 85% in some areas. The large ears of the African Bush Elephant are said by some to be shaped somewhat like Africa, but these large flaps of skin are not just for hearing, they are a vital tool in keeping the Elephant cool in the African heat. Like many of the herbivores found throughout Africa, the calves can walk at birth to maximise their chances of survival. An adult African Bush Elephant can drink up to 50 gallons of water every day, and is able to take 1.5 gallons of water into their trunks at at time.
African Bush Elephant Relationship with Humans
Sadly, due to an increase of outside interest in Africa and its exotic wonders (particularly towards the mid 20th century), the African Bush Elephant population took a devastating decline towards extinction. After having been brutally killed by poachers for years for their ivory, African Bush Elephants had vanished from much of their native habitat. In 1989 a worldwide elephant ivory hunting ban fell into place, after the populations had dropped so dramatically across the continent. In northern and central parts of Africa, the African Bush Elephant is now rare and confined to protected areas, and although the story is similar in the south, South African Elephant populations are thought to be doing better with an estimated 300,000 individuals in the region.
African Bush Elephant Conservation Status and Life Today
Today, although recovering, African Bush Elephant populations are still threatened from increasing levels of illegal poaching and habitat destruction. Deforestation in the African Bush Elephant's territory means that the African Bush Elephants lose both their food and shelter making them more vulnerable in the wild. Despite the ban, African Bush Elephants are also constantly threatened by poachers hunting the elephants for their ivory tusks.