All images are the property of mongabay.com (Nancy Butler), copyright 1994. Contact mongabay regarding use and reproduction.
For information on elephants check out elephant articles. More pictures of elephants.
Recommended travel guides on Botswana
Recommended travel guides on Botswana:
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
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.
Too tempting, too easy: poachers kill Kenya's biggest elephant
While illegal, the ivory trade is having a huge impact on elephant populations throughout the world. A new report issued by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) finds that while there was a small reduction in the number of African elephants killed by poachers in 2013, the rate is still unsustainable.
Grenades, helicopters, and scooping out brains: poachers decimate elephant population in park
Over the last two months, poachers have killed 68 African elephants in Garamba National Park representing around four percent of the population. Poachers have used helicopters, grenades, and chainsaws to undertake their gruesome trade, and, for the first time, the park has recorded that the criminals are removing the elephant's brains in addition to tusks and genitals.
Chelsea, Hillary Clinton urge action to save elephants
Former secretary of state Hillary Rodham Clinton and her daughter Chelsea are urging for further action to protect elephants from the devastating ivory trade.
New York State Assembly approves bill banning ivory trade
The New York State Assembly has passed a bill that would ban the purchase and sale of elephant ivory and rhino horn, reports the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), which played a key role in pushing the legislation.
Culling elephants leaves an impact on their social structure decades later
Researchers from the University of Sussex studied and compared the social behavior of two elephant herds: one that was severely affected by 1970 and 1980 culling operations and a herd that was relatively unaffected. In their results, the researchers found that the elephant herds that had experienced culling operations exhibited signs of post traumatic stress disorder.
Epidemic of elephant calf kidnapping hits Sri Lanka, say conservationists
In Sri Lanka, an underground wildlife racket has been simmering for a while. And a recent incident has brought it to a boil. On the night of May 1st, a gang attempted to kidnap a wild elephant calf out of the Uduwalawe National Park in Sri Lanka. But tipped off by alert villagers, police and wildlife officers foiled the abduction.
Hong Kong begins destroying 131,000 pounds of elephant ivory
Hong Kong has begun destroying its 29.6-metric-ton stockpile of confiscated ivory. On Thursday authorities in the semi-autonomous Chinese city crushed and incinerated a ton of seized ivory in an action they hope will send a message to poachers and traffickers.
Leonardo DiCaprio donates $1M toward ending elephant poaching crisis
Actor Leonardo DiCaprio has stepped up with a $1 million donation to the Elephant Crisis Fund, an initiative that aims to stop the ivory poaching crisis.
Elephants in the midst: warning system prevents human-elephant conflicts in India, saves lives
Indian elephants once freely roamed the rich mid-elevation evergreen forests of the Valparai plateau in the Western Ghats, one of the worldâ€™s mega biodiversity regions, but they canâ€™t move the way they used to. Ever-increasing commercial plantations and settlements have become obstacles to the daily and seasonal movements of elephants, creating more chances for often-deadly encounters between humans and elephants.
Police apprehend elephant-killers in Sumatra
Eleven people were arrested on April 16 by West Aceh police for allegedly killing a Sumatran elephant in a forest six kilometers away from Teupin Panah village, Kaway XVI, in the West Aceh district.
Featured video: elephant advocates ask Antiques Roadshow to stop appraising ivory
The 96 Elephants campaign has asked the television program, Antiques Roadshow, to stop airing appraisals of ivory, even if it is antique. To help convince the PBS program, the campaign produced a satiric video capturing not the worth of ivory, but its cost.
Okapi-killing warlord shot dead in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
The head of an informal militia and poaching group, Paul Sadala a.k.a. 'Morgan,' was killed on Monday after surrendering himself to the army in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). A well-known elephant poacher and terrorist, Morgan became most famous for leading an attack on the Okapi Wildlife Reserve station in 2012.
How locals and conservationists saved the elephants of Mali amidst conflict and poverty
At a time when Africa's elephants are facing a relentless poaching crisis, one community has managed to safeguard their elephants in the most unlikely of places: Mali. In a country that has suffered from widespread poverty, environmental degradation, and, most recently, warfare, a collaboration between conservationists and the local community has kept Mali's elephants from extinction.
The power of connections: India to establish Asia's largest protected forest
India has stepped up forest conservation efforts in recent years, with a major project underway to establish a large swath of uninterrupted habitat through the designation of additional protected areas and expanding those already under protection. If realized, these areas would converge to become Asiaâ€™s largest unbroken forest, encompassing approximately 15,000 square kilometers (5,790 square miles) over three states.
Islamic clerics issue 'fatwa' against poaching, declare the illegal wildlife trade 'haram'
Indonesiaâ€™s Islamic clerics drew praise from conservation groups last week after the top clerical body in the worldâ€™s largest Muslim-majority country issued a fatwa, or religious decree, against poaching and wildlife trafficking. The Indonesian Council of Ulema (MUI) announced the fatwa on Tuesday, declaring the illegal wildlife trade to be haram, or forbidden under Islamic law. The fatwa forbids Indonesiaâ€™s Muslims from â€śall activities resulting in wildlife extinctionâ€ť and is meant in part to help support existing national laws protecting endangered species, which are poorly enforced and have done little to prevent poaching.
Palm oil plantations allegedly poison seven Critically Endangered elephants in Sumatra
Wildlife officials suspect foul play in the deaths of seven Sumatran elephants on the outskirts of Tesso Nilo National Park. Officials stumbled on the corpses of one female elephant, five young males, and one male calf in mid-February. Although the males had their tusks hacked off, the officials suspect the elephant were poisoned in revenge for disturbing illegal palm oil plantations inside the park.