Elephant Facts for Kids
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What is an Elephant?
Elephants are the worlds largest land mammal. A mammal is a species that is born and not hatched from an egg. Mammals have lungs that breathe air. When a female mammal gives birth, their bodies produce milk to feed their babies. Humans are also mammals.
A well-known prehistoric ancestor to the elephant is a woolly mammoth.
The scientific name for an African Elephant is Loxodonta africana and the scientific name for an Asian Elephant is Elephas Maximus.
A female elephant is called a cow. A male elephant is called a bull and a baby elephant is called a calf.
African Elephants vs Asian Elephants
There are two types of Asian Elephants and African Elephants.
African Elephants live in forests, savannas, grasslands throughout Africa.
The African savanna elephant sometimes called the bush elephant is the largest type of elephant.
Asian elephants live in the Southwest part of Asia and also in India. Asian elephants live in tropical forests and mountain forests. A mountain forest is a forest located at a high altitude over 2,500 meters above sea level.
Asian elephants are sometimes divided into fours sub-species the Indian, Sir Lankan, Sumatran and the baby-faced pygmy elephants of Borneo.
African elephants are larger than Asian Elephants. They also have longer trunks and legs and bigger ears.
All African elephants have tusks. Female Asian elephants do not have tusks, some of the males do.
Asian elephants have long thick hairs and African elephants have hardly any hairs.
What Does an Elephant Look Like?
An elephant has a large body with a head, four legs, tail, trunk, and tusks. Their skin is very thick and has a rough feel to it.
Elephants have large ears and excellent hearning. Scientists believe by waving their ears helps them stay cool. Elephants also use their ears to express emotion. They will flap their ears when greeting other elephants or are happy. They will push them out and make them look when they feel they are in danger.
Elephants are gray in color.
Elephants grow long teeth, these are called tusks. Tusks never stop growing. Male African Elephants can grow tusks as long as 8ft. Elephant tusks are made out of ivory. Elephants don’t have any natural predators, but, humans have been known to kill elephants for their ivory tusks. It is illegal to kill elephants for their ivory, however, poachers are still killing elephants and selling their ivory on the black market. Poaching is when an animal is killed illegally.
Elephants are well-known for their large trunk. An Elephant trunk is made to move in many ways. This helps elephants use their trunk in many different ways.
Eat – Elephants use their trunk to get food and put in their mouth.
Drink- Elephants use their trunk to suck up water after they suck up the water, they squirt the water in their mouth.
Bathe- Elephants also use their trunk to suck up water and spray it over their body to get clean.
Smell- An elephant’s trunk is their nose. Elephants use their trunk to smell objects in front of them.
Play- An elephant uses its trunk to greet each other and play.
Attention– Baby calves will raise their trunk to get attention from their mothers and other elephants.
Greeting- Elephants will sometimes greet each other by putting their tusks in each other’s mouths.
An elephant’s trunk is not only useful but it’s also very strong. Their trunk has about 50,000 muscles and no bones. The trunk is strong enough to lift and move trees out of the way! Adult elephants can lift up to 550 pounds using their trunks.
Elephant trunks have “fingers” at the end of it to help the elephant grab objects. An African Elephant has two “fingers” and an Asian Elephant has one “finger.”
Largest Land Mammal
Elephants are around 200 pounds when they are born. That’s one big baby!
An adult African male elephant can grow to be 12 feet tall and weigh up to 7 tons! A ton is 2,000 pounds. So some elephants can grow up to 14,000 pounds. That is one big animal!
An adult Asian male elephant can grow to be 10 feet tall and weight 2-5 tons.
Female elephants are smaller than males and weigh less.
Elephants are herbivores meaning they only eat plants and vegetables. They do not eat meat. Elephants like to eat berries other fruit, roots, bark, grass, and leaves.
An adult elephant can spend 16 hours of their day eating. An adult elephant eats between 300-600 pounds of food every day. How do they eat all that food? An elephant has four large teeth that they slide back and forth to chew their food. All that chewing wears on elephants teeth. They grow new teeth to replace the old ones. Elephants can go through six sets of teeth in their lifetime.
Since elephants spend so much of their day eating, they spend a lot of time pooping too. An elephant can poop 12-15 times a day all that poop can add up to 300 pounds a day!
Eating all that food can make an elephant thirsty. Elephants can drink between 40-50 gallons of eater every day. Elephants have been known to dig up the ground in search of water.
Elephants travel in herds. A herd is a group of 8 to 30 elephants. Elephant herds are led by females. The leader of the herd is called a matriarch. The matriarch is the oldest female in the group. The matriarch is in charge of finding water and food for the herd.
Male elephants or bulls will stay with the herd for about 12 years. Once they become a full adult they will leave the herd to live with other young male elephants. Once they grow older, they will move on again to live alone.
A mother elephant is pregnant with her baby for 22 months.
A baby elephant is called a calf. A calf is about 200 pounds when they are born. Calves are able to stand and walk only after an hour after they are born.
Calves will suck on its trunk just like some babies suck their fingers or thumbs.
When they are born, they start drinking milk from their mother. A calf will only have their mother’s milk for the first couple of months of life. After a couple of months, they will start to eat plants. This is similar to a human baby who also only drinks milk from their mother or formula for their first couple of months, then they will start eating baby food.
A calf will drink up to 3 gallons of milk each day from the age of two years old until they are 10.
When a calf is born it will join the herd. The members of the elephant herd will gather around the new calf to greet him or her. They will make trumpet sounds and touch the calf with their trunk to show how happy they are for the birth of the baby.
It takes an elephant 10-15 years before becoming an adult. Adult male elephants will leave their families and find a new herd. Female elephants stay with their mother’s herd.
All members of the herd will help take care of and protect the calf.
Calves love to play just like kids. They will climb on each other and play by using their trunks.
Fun Elephant Facts
Scientists discovered that elephants sing. They use an ultrasound rumble too low for humans to hear to keep the herd together and to find mates.
Elephants have been taught to paint too. Elephants have been working with people for thousands of years. They have helped carry large objects and have been used for transportation and also used to scare enemies during invasions. Today some elephants are in shows and parades. People work with elephants to teach them commands such as “come” and “bring.” Now elephants have been taught to paint too.
Elephants have been taught to use their trunks to hold a paintbrush. Their teacher will pass them a paintbrush will paint on it and direct the elephant to the paper to paint. When the elephant wants a new color he or she will give the paintbrush back to the teacher. When they no longer want to paint they will drop the paintbrush and walk away.
Elephants sleep about 2 hours per day.
Elephants need a lot of water for drinking, swimming and staying clean. They will walk hundreds of miles in search of a source of water.
Elephants like to swim and splash in the water. Once they are finished swimming members of the herd will help each other throw dust all over themselves. The dusk will act as sunblock and bug repellent. Elephants also roll around in the mud to keep cool.
Elephants play an important role in the circle of life. They are “keystone species” which means their existence in important for other plants and animals to survive. As they roam through forests, they push down trees and clear paths. The leaves of the fallen trees become food for the smaller animals. The clear paths also help smaller animals pass through the forest. Their large piles of poop or dung also serve as a food source for dung beetles.
The average lifespan for an elephant is 60-70 years.
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The Elephant by Jenni Desmond
Baby Elephant Joins the Herd American Museum and Natural History
Elephants Can Paint Too! by Katya Arnold