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The African Savannah Elephant (Loxodonta africana) is the best-known and larger of the two African elephants. Both it and the Forest Elephant were previously classified as a single species, which was known simply as the African Elephant. It is also known as the Bush Elephant or African Bush Elephant.
The Savannah elephant can range from 6–7.3 m (20–24 ft) long and 3–4 m (10–13 ft) high. At up to 10,000 kg (22,000 lb) it is the largest land animal in the world.
After their size, an elephant's most obvious characteristic is the single trunk, a type of muscular hydrostat, that is a much elongated combination of nose and upper lip. The tip of an elephant's trunk contains pacinian corpuscles and finger-like projections used to manipulate small objects and to pluck grasses. The trunk is a useful and muscular appendage that enables an elephant to reach food in high places and lift obstacles weighing up to 1 ton. Elephants are able to pull up to 11.5 liters (3 gallons) of water into the trunk to be sprayed into the mouth for drinking or onto the back for bathing. A trunk is also used for breathing and can be used as a snorkel when wading in deep water.
Elephants also have tusks, large teeth emerging from their upper jaws. Elephant tusks are the major source of ivory, but because of the increased rarity of elephants, hunting and ivory trade is now restricted, and in some countries illegal.
Elephants have three premolars and three molars in each quadrant. They erupt in order from front to back, then wear down as the elephant chews its highly fibrous diet. When the last molar has worn out, the elephant typically dies of malnutrition; elephants in captivity can be kept alive longer than that by feeding them preground food. The molars of the African elephant are loxodont, hence the genus name.
Skin diseases often occur, from which they try to protect themselves by taking mud baths, showering one another with water from the trunk, and rolling in dust. The skin can therefore appear brown or reddish, but the natural color is light gray. Their coarse and wrinkled skin is sparsely bristled, and about 1 inch (25 mm) thick. There are also rare white elephants, who often have blue eyes. Otherwise elephants have brown eyes, surrounded by long lashes.
They have large ears that they can wave to cool themselves down, and a relatively small tail with a brush at its tip.
Walking at a normal pace an elephant covers about 2 to 4 miles an hour (3 to 6 km/h) but they can reach 24 miles an hour (40 km/h) at full speed.
Elephants are herbivores, spending 16 hours a day collecting plant food. Their diet is at least 50% grasses, supplemented with leaves, twigs, bark, roots, and small amounts of fruits, seeds and flowers. Because elephants only use 40% of what they eat they have to make up for their digestive system's lack of efficiency in volume. An adult elephant can consume 300 to 600 pounds (140 to 270 kg) of food a day. 60% of that food leaves the elephant's body undigested.
News on Elephants
Videos: new film series highlights bringing Gorongosa back to life
Tracking lions, photographing bats, collecting insects, bringing elephants home: it's all part of a day's work in Gorongosa National Park. This vast wilderness in Mozambique was ravaged by civil war. However, a unique and ambitious 20-year-effort spearheaded by Greg Carr through the Gorongosa Restoration Project is working to restore this rich and little-studied African wilderness.
Video: clouded leopards and elephants grace drowned forest in Thailand
Camera trap video from Khlong Saeng Wildlife Sanctuary in southern Thailand has revealed an impressive array of wildlife, including scent-marking clouded leopards and a whole herd of Asian elephant. The camera traps were set by HabitatID, an organization devoted to using remote camera traps to prove to government officials that wildlife still flourishes in forgotten places.
California introduces bill to close ivory loophole
California congresswoman, Toni G. Atkins, introduced a bill yesterday (AB 96) that would close a major loophole allowing ivory to be sold all over the state. Thousands of miles away, across Africa, poachers are decimating elephants for their ivory tusks. A recent study estimated that one fifth of the continent's elephants have been slaughtered in just three years.
Top 10 Environmental Stories of 2014
In 2014, the unimaginable happened: companies representing the majority of palm oil production and trade agreed to stop cutting down rainforests and draining peatlands for new oil palm plantations. After years of intense campaigning by environmentalists and dire warnings from scientists, nearly two dozen major producers, traders, and buyers established zero deforestation policies.
Enough for an elephant: why are Cameroon's elephants raiding fields?
Waza National Park in West Africa is a refuge to many endangered and vulnerable species. Walk through the grounds and you may see red-fronted gazelles grazing or giraffes sauntering between trees in search of foliage. Head to the park's perimeter, though, and you may see a less serene scene: elephants raiding local farmers' crops.
Meet the world's most wanted environmental criminals
In keeping with recent efforts to ramp up action against environmental crime, INTERPOL has highlighted nine fugitives for breaking laws related to illegal logging, poaching and the wildlife trade, illegal fishing, and waste dumping, among other crimes.
Conflict-fueled deforestation, poaching in Assam continue despite truce
Northeastern India boasts nearly 44 percent of the countryâ€™s dense forests, and contains one of the most biodiverse areas in the world. However, the region lost approximately 548,440 hectares of tree coverâ€”more than 3 percentâ€”from 2001 through 2012. Sonitpur, Assam, has been particularly hard hit as people flooded into the area and cleared forest.
Disappearing oasis: northeastern India losing forests as people move in
Northeastern India is part of the Eastern Himalaya biodiversity hotspot, one of the megadiverse areas of the world. The region boasts more than 60 percent forest cover, compared to the 15 percent for India as a whole. However, not all is pristine when one visits areas designated as forest on the map.
Man plants forest, becomes film star
Jadav â€śMolaiâ€ť Payeng is a 51-year-old man who lives in Indiaâ€™s north-eastern state of Assam in the village of Aruna Chapori. A member of Assamâ€™s indigenous Mising tribe, Payeng is better known as the â€śForest Man" for spending the last 35 years planting a forest bigger than New York City's Central Park.
One man plants forest larger than Central Park
Jadav â€śMolaiâ€ť Payeng resides in northeast Assamâ€™s Jorhat district in the village of Aruna Chapori. Here, for the past 35 years, he has worked to plant trees on a sandbar island in the river near his homeâ€”and in the process, single-handedly established a forest larger than New York Cityâ€™s Central Park.
Agam, the adorable baby elephant that captured hearts in Indonesia, is dead
Agam, an orphaned two year old Sumatran elephant, died over the weekend presumably from injuries suffered during a fall last May.
Elephants worth much, much more alive than dead, says new report
Elephants are worth 76 times more when theyâ€™re alive than dead, according to a new analysis released this past weekend. The report follows on the heels of findings by WWF that the world has lost 50 percent of its wildlife over the past 40 years, with more than half of African elephants killed for ivory in just one decade.
Joint force uses Google Earth to find elephant poaching camps in Mozambique, captures poachers in raid
On Monday, September 22, two ivory poachers were arrested in Mozambique during a late-night raid near Niassa National Reserve. The arrest followed on the heels of nearly two-dozen reported kills in the reserve in just the first two weeks of the month.
WCS-led raids lead to six arrests near Mozambiqueâ€™s largest reserve
A joint force of the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and government authorities are in the midst of carrying out a series of raids against poachers in Mozambique aimed at halting the illegal killing of elephants in Niassa National Reserve, the countryâ€™s largest protected area. Six men, thought to be responsible for killing 39 elephants in 2014, were arrested in an early morning bust in the town of Marrupa, just south of the park.
Elephants pay the price for palm oil in Malaysian Borneo, impact may reach far beyond reported kills
More than a dozen elephant kills were reported in Sabah in 2013 alone, but it is unknown exactly how many have lost their lives in recent years as palm plantations encroach further and further into the rainforest. What is clear is that if the loss of their forest habitat continues to drive conflicts with humans at the rate it is now, Borneo elephantsâ€™ long-term survival may be in jeopardy.
Zambia ends trophy hunting ban, elephants fair game
After 20 months, Zambia has lifted its ban on hunting, allowing trophy hunters to target numerous species in the wildlife-rich country including elephants. The announcement was made by the country's Tourism and Art's Minister, Jean Kapata, who stated that the ban had resulted in a loss of revenue to the Zambia Wild Life Authority (ZAWA).
20 percent of Africa's elephants killed in three years
Around 100,000 elephants were killed by poachers for their ivory on the African continent in just three years, according to a new paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Between 2010 and 2012 an average of 6.8 percent of the elephant population was killed annually, equaling just over 20 percent of the continent's population in that time.
Elephant poaching soars as Sumatran forests turn into plantations
There has been a spike in elephant deaths in Sumatra this year, and conversion of rainforest to plantations is one of the main causes. The number of Sumatran elephants poached in the province of Riau so far this year is staggering, with 22 reported kills in the first six months of 2014 compared to 14 for the entirety of 2013.
Jane Goodall: how many elephants will be killed on World Elephant Day?
Marking World Elephant Day, a designation intended to raise awareness about the plight of elephants that are being widely poached for the ivory trade, primatologist Jane Goodall urged people to have greater compassion for Earth's largest land animals.
Want to save Africa's elephants? Close all ivory markets
The only way to save the long-suffering elephants of Africa is to close every ivory market on the planet and destroy all ivory stockpiles, according to a bold new essay in Conservation Biology. Written by Elizabeth Bennett, the Vice President for Species Conservation at the Wildlife Conservation Society, the paper is likely to prove controversial.
New Jersey bans elephant ivory trade
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has signed into law a ban on elephant ivory sales, reports NorthJersey.com. The measure, passed earlier by the New Jersey State Senate and Assembly, establishes fines for first-time offenders caught buying or selling ivory products. Repeat offenders have stiffer fines.
Poachers target elephants, tigers in Sumatran park
The Leuser Ecosystem in Aceh, Indonesia is gaining the attention of international animal traffickers, according to the Leuser Conservation Forum (FKL). From the beginning of 2013, FKL patrols have dismantled 282 makeshift traps targeting high value threatened species, and the situation is getting worse.
Rebuilding Kissama: war-torn Angola's only national park affected by deforestation, but refaunation gives hope
The story of Kissama National Park is one of perseverance, vision and disaster in waiting. The only functional national park in Angola, a country wracked by war for decades, Kissama (also called QuiĂ§ama) lost much of its wildlife, with that which is left still impacted by poaching and deforestation. However, a project is attempting to bring the park back to life.
On track to 'go beyond the critical point': Sri Lanka still losing forests at rapid clip
During the latter half of Sri Lanka's civl war, between 1990 and 2005, Sri Lanka suffered one of the highest rates of deforestation in the world, losing about 35 percent of its old growth forest and almost 18 percent of its total forest cover. The conflict ended in 2009, and while deforestation has slowed somewhat, Sri Lanka is still losing forest cover at a fast pace.
Price of ivory triples in China
In the last four years the price of ivory in China has tripled, according to new research from Save the Elephants. The news has worrying implications for governments and conservationists struggling to save elephants in Africa amidst a poaching epidemic, which has seen tens-of-thousands of elephants butchered for their tusks across the continent annually
U.S should sanction Mozambique for its role in elephant, rhino poaching, urges NGOs
Two prominent NGOs U.S should sanction Mozambique for its role in elephant, rhino poaching, urges NGOsare petitioning the U.S government to slap Mozambique with trade sanctions due to the country's role in regional poaching. The groups contend that Mozambique has done little to combat both its own poaching epidemic or stop its nationals from spilling over the border to kill rhinos and elephants in South Africa and Tanzania.
Discarded cell phones to help fight rainforest poachers, loggers in real-time
A technology that uses discarded mobile phones to create a real-time alert system against logging and poaching will soon be deployed in the endangered rainforests of Central Africa. Rainforest Connection (RFCx), a San Francisco-based non-profit startup, is partnering with the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) to install its real-time anti-deforestation technology at sites in Cameroon. 30 RFCx devices — recycled from old Android handsets — will monitor 10,000 hectares or nearly 40 square miles of rainforest, listening for audio signals associated with logging and poaching.
Broken promises no more? Signs Sabah may finally uphold commitment on wildlife corridors
Five years ago an unlikely meeting was held in the Malaysian state of Sabah to discuss how to save wildlife amid worsening forest fragmentation. Although the meeting brought together longtime adversaries—conservationists and the palm oil industry—it appeared at the time to build new relationships and even point toward a way forward for Sabah's embattled forests.
Billy Joel welcomes New York Senate's approval of ivory ban
Musician Billy Joel has weighed in on the ivory bill making its way through the New York State legislature.
What does SOCO's withdrawal really mean for the future of Virunga National Park?
Recent headlines have touted an agreement between SOCO International, a British oil company, and WWF, as bringing about an end to oil exploration in Virunga National Park. For example: Oil company Soco not to drill in Virunga World Heritage Site, Deal aims to ban drilling in gorilla preserve, and Soco halts oil exploration in Africa's Virunga national park. However, the same news banners flew in 2011, and oil exploration returned.