African Bush Elephant – The World’s Biggest Land Animal!

How Big is the African Bush Elephant?

The African Bush Elephant is the world’s largest land animal. An adult male will be about 10-11 feet tall (3 to 3.5 metres), 20-24 feet long (6-7 metres) and weigh about 15000 lb (7500 kg). The females are slightly smaller. They can eat 500 lb (225 kg) of food every day, and drink 50 gallons (190 litres) of water. The picture below shows how big the African Bush Elephant is, compared with a human.

African Bush Elephant And Human
African Bush Elephant And Human

Because it is so big, an adult elephant has almost no enemies. A baby elephant might be attacked by a lion or a crocodile, but the only creature that can harm an adult elephant is a well-prepared human – although in some wildlife parks, there are large prides of lions that have figured out how to kill an adult elephant, using clever teamwork and strategy.

Elephant Poaching

Elephants have been hunted, in the past, for their meat and skin, for the so-called “fun” of hunting an elephant, and especially for their tusks, which are made of ivory. In the 19th century, ivory was used for piano keys, valuable works of art, and other things. Because people wanted ivory so much, many elephants were killed – thousands every year. The population of African Elephants dropped from several million in 1900 to only 700,000 in 1989, when hunting elephants for ivory was banned. If this had not been done, the African Elephant would have gone extinct in the 1990’s. As it is, there are now about 2 million African Elephants.

Now it is against the law to kill elephants for ivory, and in many countries it is against the law to buy or sell ivory. Despite this, there are criminals who hunt elephants illegally.  These hunters are called “poachers”, and they cause a lot of harm. For example, in the African country called Chad, the number of elephants has gone down from 300,000 to only 10,000 over forty years – all because of illegal hunting.
a picture of an African Bush Elephant

African and Asian Elephants

Scientists once classified elephants into two different species, the African Elephant and the Asian (or Indian) Elephant. Since studying the DNA of the African Elephant, they’ve realised that the African Elephant is really two different species, which they call the African Bush Elephant, and the African Forest Elephant. The Bush Elephant is the larger of the two types of African Elephant, and both types of African Elephant are larger than the Asian Elephant.

These three species are the only living creatures in the order Elephantidae, and Elephantidae is the only order of mammals in the family Proboscidea (the word Proboscidae comes from the Greek word for “nose”). Therefore, the African Bush Elephant is

  • The world’s largest of the three Elephantidae
  • The world’s largest of the three Proboscidea
  • The world’s largest of the over 3900 land mammals

as well as being the world’s largest land animal. The largest mammal and animal of all is the sea-dwelling Blue Whale.

Elephant Tusks

An Elephant’s Tusks are actually a very large tooth. Other animals with tusks include walruses, wild boar, and narwhals (amongst others).

Elephant Facts and Myths

There’s a saying that “An Elephant Never Forgets”. Although this is probably no more true for elephants than for people, what is true is that elephants are very intelligent animals. Sometimes the survival of a herd might depend on the oldest member being able to recall where she found water in a drought many decades ago. Elephants have also been noticed using “tools” – for example, scratching their back with a branch, or using chewed-up wood to plug up a waterhole in dry weather so it won’t dry out.

If a herd of elephants comes across a dead elephant they will gather around, and perhaps touch it with their trunk – perhaps as if they are mourning over it. However, the famed “elephant graveyards” where elephants go to die are just a myth. Elephants don’t seek out some special “dying place” when their time comes.

An elephant can live up to 60-70 years in the wild. Some captive elephants have lived as long as 80 years.

Elephant Habitat and Diet

The African Bush Elephant lives almost everywhere in Africa south of the Sahara desert, except in the jungles. They prefer open grasslands and savannahs, and have even been observed deliberately knocking down trees! The females travel in small family groups, the males travel alone, except when they are young. They will travel very far in search of food or water. Elephants are plant-eaters, and eat a wide variety of different types of plants.  Many plants benefit from this, because the elephants carry the plants’ seeds in their stomach for long distances, and then “plant” the seeds in a big pile of elephant poo fertiliser!

Elephants and People

Besides hunting them for meat and ivory, people have long made use of the elephant’s great strength, to pull heavy weights, move heavy equipment, and so forth. Elephants have been used in wars – one of the most famous examples was when Hannibal took war elephants over the Alps to attack the Roman Empire. Asian Elephants were an important part of the Indian army until the invention of the cannon in the 17th century. They also hold a special place in the Hindu religion. Now, elephants are a “must-see” item in any zoo visit or safari.

5 thoughts on “African Bush Elephant – The World’s Biggest Land Animal!”

  1. Hi I Have recently started a blog and am serching for information
    on laws which would protect against the killing of elephants.
    There seems to be an assortment of them but I don’t have the knowledge to sum it up in a nut shell.
    In my attempt to address the worlds lack of knowledge on this subject, might you possibly write me a couple of sentences that
    would shed a little light on the subject of “Laws on killing elephants”? I would be so appreciative. Thank you

  2. The legal hunters are not the problem, poachers are. As long as humans exist, there will be poaching, sad to say. And sad for the elephants, that they live in areas where people consider them pests more than anything. A small group of elephants can easily strip many acres of farmland from its resources, and will often push down an entire tree, just to get to one leaf and then leave the tree to die. Villages entire season of food, can be wiped out in a single night from elephant, and then the villagers must come up with a way to eat because they now have no food. Poachers are wasteful, desiring only the tusks, and sometimes the tail-hair for bracelets. Legal hunters pay over $20,000 dollars for a hunting permit. That money goes to aiding elephant protection, and stopping the poachers. Legal hunting accounts for less than 1% of the animals killed. When a hunter takes an animal, there is nothing left to waste, as the local natives are allowed to come and a single elephant can be utilized to feed 5,000 meals. If it were not for the hunters money, elephants would have already been extinct in Africa.

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