The first time any of us saw this animal was probably in an alphabet book under the letter E for elephant. Do you remember seeing the circus elephants on their hind legs doing tricks? If we were lucky enough, we went to the zoo to get a closer look, but it never really gave us a chance to really understand them. Of course, the best way is to go on safari and see them in the wild, but most of us settle for the documentaries on television. It is amazing to watch these animals. There are two different species of elephants on earth – African and Asian elephants. Most of us are more familiar with the larger African elephant that stands approximately 8 to 13 feet high at the shoulder and weigh on an average from 5,000 to 14,000 pounds! The females are called cows and the males bulls. The society of elephants is run by the females, which travel in herds that may be as large as 100 elephants. The female gestation period is 22 months – the longest gestation period for a land mammal on earth. Ladies, I do not know about you, but nine months was long enough for me! At birth, the baby usually weighs in at 250 pounds and can stand on its own, but it takes months before it has the muscles to use its trunk correctly. The elephant’s trunk weighs 400 pounds and is a combination of its nose and upper lip. There are 16 major muscles that allow the elephant to raise its trunk, and thousands of muscle bundles that enable it to pick up one blade of grass or strip bark from a tree. Most of us have seen the elephant using its trunk as a hose to drink or bath. The trunk is not only amazing, but one of the most versatile parts of the animal. Another is its skin. The skin is one-inch thick and is moisturized by the mud baths the elephants are so famous for taking. The mud remains in the wrinkles and moisturizes the skin. As massive as the elephants are, they only eat grasses, bark, roots and fruit. It takes at least 300 pounds of that combination a day to sustain an adult animal. The mammal’s tusks are helpful for digging up salt, roots and stripping bark from trees. The elephant’s oversized tusks are made of ivory, which may grow up to 7 inches a year. The Greek word for the elephant is elephas, which translates to ivory. Greedy hunters kill elephants just for the tusks. Yes, ivory is beautiful, but is it worth wiping out these magnificent mammals? Stop and think what it would be like if our grandchildren never saw these animals in the wild. The Roman philosopher Seneca summed it up best when he said, “For greed, all nature is too little.”
SharLeigh has an inquisitive nature – she is interested in current events, history, science and many more subjects, including things that go bump in the night! Since 1997, SharLeigh has scoured the internet, looking for interesting, fun and timely topics covering all sorts of human-interest subjects for her articles from her home in Fontana, CA.