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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
Weapons trafficking experts target criminal wildlife trade networks
An outfit usually associated with investigating arms dealers and weapons traffickers is applying its advanced network mapping capabilities to go after wildlife trafficking syndicates. This week Washington D.C.-based C4ADS unveiled the Environmental Crimes Fusion Cell, a unit which consists of a team of analysts, network mapping technology provided by software company Palantir, and a network of NGOs and enforcement agencies. The unit analyses wildlife trade data to provide actionable intelligence to pursue and apprehend traffickers.
South African Airways bans all wildlife trophies from flights
Trophy hunters may need to find another flight home, as South African Airlines (SAA) has announced a new ban on any wildlife trophies from their flights. The debate over trophy hunting in Africa is rising as many of the continent's most beloved mammals—including lions, elephants, rhinos, and giraffes—face precipitous declines.
Wilmar, Musim Mas supplier caught clearing elephant habitat for palm oil in Aceh
A new report provides evidence that a supplier of palm oil giants Wilmar and Musim Mas is bulldozing valuable forests in Indonesiaâ€™s Leuser Ecosystem in violation of the companiesâ€™ zero-deforestation policies as well as the Indonesia Palm Oil Pledge (IPOP), a high-profile, joint sustainability pact that also includes Golden Agri-Resources, Asian Agri, Musim Mas and the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Kadin).
Ranger killed by poachers in park known for grisly elephant slaughters
On April 25th, poachers shot and killed wildlife ranger, Agoyo Mbikoyo, in Garamba National Park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), according to the organization African Parks. On the frontline of the illegal wildlife trade, Garamba Naitonal Park is known as a hotspot for elephant poaching.
Activist deported from Cambodia continues fighting dam from abroad
Alex Gonzalez-Davidson has been campaigning to prevent construction of a proposed dam on the Areng River in the Cardamom Mountains. The Cambodian government deported him in February, but evidence is mounting that the dam project may have stalled.
Tapping into evolutionary responses to guard crops against elephants
The search for effective measures to reduce human-elephant conflict is a top priority for wildlife managers and a significant challenge. Ongoing conflict incidents exacerbate anti-wildlife sentiments among rural populations, as conflict events can lead to the deaths of both people and elephants. The continued expansion of development and agriculture into traditional wildlife grazing lands pushes elephants into more frequent contact with people and crop fields.
Illegal ivory trade alive and well on Craigslist
As it has become more difficult to buy illegal ivory from slaughtered elephants on places like eBay, Etsy, and Amazon.com, traders and buyers in the U.S. have turned to another venue: Craigslist. A new report by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) and the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) finds that the ivory trade is thriving on Craigslist.
Two more Sumatran elephants found dead in Aceh
A pair of critically endangered Sumatran elephants were found dead this month in Indonesia's Aceh province, just the latest casualties for a species that has been brought into increasing conflict with humans amid the country's oil palm boom. One was shot through the head by a poacher. The other was injured by a snare trap and perished shortly thereafter.
Zimbabwe selling baby elephant calves to China, says environmental group
A hundred thousand African elephants were killed by poachers for their ivory between 2010 and 2012. Now a new threat looms: a growing wildlife trade in baby animals to satisfy international tourism. Zimbabwe has reportedly taken 80 elephant calves from their mothers and families in the wild, and is currently holding them in two heavily guarded facilities in Hwange National Park and near Victoria Falls. The baby animals await transport overseas for sale to unidentified buyers, possibly in China or other countries, says the international elephant rights organization, Global Action Ending Wild Capture (GAEWC).
Elephant poaching rate unchanged â€“ and still devastating
New figures show essentially no change in the number of elephants killed in Africa by poachers last year, despite a high-profile meeting on the crisis which was attended by 46 countries and a number of commitments. Data from CITES' Monitoring the Illegal Killing of Elephants (MIKE) estimated that around 20,000 elephants were killed in 2014, the same as in 2013.
Conservationists announce program to protect East Africa's largest elephant population
The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and the Tanzanian government have launched an ambitious new initiative to protect East Africa's largest population of elephants (Loxodonta Africana). With funds from USAID, the plan aims to reduce poaching and protect biodiversity - including the area's 25,000 elephants- across an 115,000 square kilometer ecosystem.
China bans carved ivory imports
China has established a one-year ban on imports of carved African elephant ivory.
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.