Elephant
The common name is the African Elephant, the scientific name is Loxodonta

Africana, the phylum is Vertebrata, the class is Mammalia, the order is

Proboscidea, and the family is Elephantidae. The Closest Relatives to the

African Elephant are: the Asian Elephant, mammoths, primitive proboscidean
(mastodons), sea cows, and hyraxes. Scientists believe that the African Elephant
evolved from one of its closest relatives, the Sea Cow. The geographical
location and range of the African elephant covers all of central and southern

Africa. In Ethiopia there are isolated populations that exist around Lake Chad
in Mali and Mauritania. Also in Kenya, Rhodesia, Tanzania, Zambia, Uganda,

Zaire, and in National parks located in South Africa, as well as several other
countries. African Elephants, originally, were found in all of the Sub-Saharan

African habitats except desert steppes. Elephants still occupy diverse habitats
such as: temperate grassland, tropical savanna and grass lands, temperate forest
and rainforest, tropical rainforest, tropical scrub forest, and tropical
deciduous forest despite their drastic decline in numbers. However, their
migratory patterns and habitat use have changed, due to the fact that they are
restricted to protected areas. The elephant can exist in many types of
environments but it prefers places that have many trees and bushes, which the
elephant needs both for food and shade. They also like warm areas that have
plenty of rainfall. This ensures plenty of food, shade, and water. The elephant
prefers a habitat of mixed woodland and grassland which gives them an
opportunity to eat a variety of vegetation. African Elephants are considered
herbivores, they are both browsers and grazers; they will eat rough sticks,
stems and leaves of plants as well as grasses, sedges, and fruit. Their
favorites are mangoes, berries and coconuts. An elephant eats up to 500 pounds
of vegetation every day and drinks up to 50 gallons of water daily. Elephants
must consume these giant quantities of food, due to their poor digestive system.

The small intestine is 82 feet long, the large intestine 21 feet long, and the
rectum adds a further 13 feet. The problem with the digestive tract lies in
their gut; elephants have too few symbiotic bacteria. These are the organisms
which help break down the cellulose of plant cell walls by producing enzymes
called cellulases. The most remarkable feature of the elephant’s digestive
system is its 5 feet long appendix, bigger than the stomach. Proteins, starches,
and sugars are digested in the appendix. The elephant will excrete almost 200
pounds a day of semi-digested food. Elephants live together in strong family
units which might have as few as two or as many as twenty members. When the
group gets too big, it splits up; but the groups stay in close contact. Elephant
life revolves around this unit which is usually headed by the oldest female. The
family offers protection, aid, comfort, and teaching to all of its members.

Within the units are cows, calves, and bulls. The male bulls are very solitary
and most of the time travel only with other males, except during mating season
when the bulls travel with the pack looking for a mate. The males remain with
the family unit until they are about fourteen and then leave the family to join
the other males. The African elephant usually gives birth to one calf every four
years. The gestation period is approximately twenty to twenty two years. The
newborn calf, which weighs 200-300 pounds and stands about three feet high, is
cared for by all of the females in the pack, not just by the mother. The calf
may nurse as long as eight years, or until its tusks are too long for the
mother. It takes about 14 to 15 years for an elephant to fully mature. They grow
to about 10-13 feet tall and 7.5 meters in length and weigh as much as 7 tons.

The family will remain together throughout their lives. The elephant’s body
has many special features which it has adapted throughout the centuries to help
it survive in its environment. The most important part of the elephant’s body
is its trunk. An elephant uses its trunk for many things. With it, the elephant
can pick up objects that weigh as much as 600 lbs. This powerful trunk is also
used to beat off attacking animals and sometimes mother elephants use their
trunks to swat their babies. The trunk, which is very flexible, can curl over
the elephant’s head so that the elephant can give itself showers and dust
baths. The trunk also curls towards the elephant’s mouth so it can eat and
drink.