The African elephant is also called the African bush elephant or savannah elephant and is the largest living animal on land. The most noticeable characteristics of the African elephant are the very large ears used to radiate excess heat. The African elephant is also known for its trunk, an extension of the upper lip and nose. The trunk is used for handling objects and food and communication. On the sides of the mouth are two long teeth made of ivory called tusks that extend out from inside the mouth. Both male and female have tusks and use them for fighting, marking their territory, feeding, and digging. African elephants can weigh up to 10,000 lbs and grow to 12 feet tall. They can live for over 70 years and die when they can no longer eat due to worn molars.
African elephants are found in a wide variety of habitats, including savanna, grasslands, miombo woodlands and forests, Sahelian scrub, swamps, bushlands, and even deserts. They are hervibores and eat only grass, fruits, tree leaves, bark, shrubs, and vines. Males usually live alone or form bachelor groups, and females and their young prefer to live in herds of up to 15, the oldest female being the leader or "matriarch". Some larger herds of 100 have been observed as groups come together for safety from predators like lions and hyenas. The African Elephant has the longest pregnancy of all mammals, almost 22 months. The female gives birth to one calf, and the calf can weigh 200 lb at birth and stand about 3 feet tall.
The African elephant for centuries has been hunted for its tusks, which are traded as ivory. In the 1970s and 80s, there was an increased demand for ivory which had a negative impact on the elephant population. Elephants are also hunted for their meat. Habitat loss and conflicts with humans are also a problem. The species is now protected by law although poaching still occurs illegally.
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