Elephantidae (the elephants) is a family of animals, and the only remaining family in the order Proboscidea. more...
Elephantidae has three living species: the Savannah Elephant and Forest Elephant (which were collectively known as the African Elephant) and the Asian Elephant (formerly known as the Indian Elephant). Other species have become extinct since the last ice age, which ended about 10,000 years ago.
Elephants are the largest land animals and largest land mammals alive today. At birth it is common for an elephant calf to weigh 120 kg (265 lb). It takes 20 to 22 months for a baby elephant to mature to birth, the longest gestation period of any land animal. An elephant may live as long as 70 years. The largest elephant ever recorded was shot in Angola in 1974. It was male and weighed 12,000 kilograms (26,400 lb). The smallest elephants, about the size of a calf or a large pig, were a pre-historic variant that lived on the island of Crete until 5000 BC, possibly 3000 BC. Their scattered skulls, featuring a single large trunk-hole at the front, formed the basis of belief in existence of cyclops, one-eyed giants, which are featured in Homer's Odyssey.
Prehistoric human beings have been known to eat elephants, as recent findings of animal remains in central China show. The elephant is now a protected animal, and consumption is prohibited around the world.
The African Elephant
The Loxodonta africana, or the African elephant, is found in several regions throughout the continent after which it is named. In recent years, Loxondonta has received the attention of the world because of its dwindling numbers. Today there are approximately 600,000 African elephants in the world. Some believe this represents a stable population and that measures to protect them are unnecessary. Others argue that while elephants are locally overabundant in certain areas, it is impossible to ignore the fact that the overall population has dropped by a staggering amount. As recently as 1979 there were an estimated 1.3 million African elephants. This decline is attributed primarily to poaching, or illegal hunting, and habitat loss.
African elephants are distinguished from Asians in several ways. The most noticeable difference is the ears. Africans' ears are much larger and are shaped like the continent of their origin. The African elephant is typically larger than the Asian and has a concave back. Both males and females have external tusks and are usually less hairy than their Asian cousins.
Within the Loxodonta species, most scientists recognize two distinct subspecies, or races. The first is the bush African elephant (Loxodonta africana africana), the largest of all the elephants. In fact, it is the largest land animal in the world, standing on average thirteen feet at the shoulder and weighing approximately 15,400 pounds. Most often, bush elephants are found in open grasslands, marshes, and lakeshores. They range over most of Africa south of the Sahara Desert.
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