There are 2 different species of elephants: the African elephant and the Asian elephant (also known as the Indian elephant). Elephants are the largest land mammals.
Elephants are very social animals and live in family groups referred to as “herds”. Female elephants are called “cows” and males are called “bulls”. Elephants have a two-year gestation (pregnancy) and produce one offspring at a time. The baby is called a “calf”. Baby elephants weight about 200 lbs. at birth. Both species of elephants are long-lived animals; they can live about 50-60 years.
Elephants are herbivores and eat large amounts of plant material: leaves, branches, grass, bark, even roots. Each individual elephant will eat several hundred pounds of plant material every day and will drink about 50 gallons of water a day.
The ivory tusks are actually 2 upper incisor teeth; the elephant has 4 more large molar teeth in its mouth: one in each corner. Interestingly elephants go through 6 sets of teeth in their lifetime
Elephants can grow as tall as 11 feet and can weigh up to 15,000 lbs. African elephants generally are taller than Asians, but the Asian elephants are usually heavier.
ASIAN ELEPHANT (Elephas maximus)
Asian elephants live throughout south and southeastern Asia. There are currently 13 countries with wild populations of Asian elephants. Elephants in Asia have had a relationship with man for several thousand years and are very important culturally in this part of the world.
Asian elephants have smaller ears than the African elephant. They have 2 "domes" on the top of their head, and a more humped back than the African elephant. Their skin can show a pinkish discoloration, which is a depigmentation found only in the Asian elephant. They have 1 "finger" at the end of their trunk, and only the males have large tusks. The females have no tusks or very small ones referred to as "tushes".
There are about 35,000 wild Asian elephants left in Asia. Asian elephants are considered an endangered species.
AFRICAN ELEPHANT (Loxondonta africana)
African elephants live throughout the continent of Africa, south of the Sahara desert. There are currently 37 countries with wild populations of African elephants.
African elephants have much larger ears than their Asian cousins, and their ears are rounded and shaped like the continent of Africa. They also have a smooth forehead and two "fingers" at the end of their trunk. Their skin is more deeply wrinkled than the Asian elephant's skin and both the males and females have large tusks.
There are about 500,000 wild African elephants left on the African continent. African elephants are considered a threatened species.