Elephants live in 37 African and six Asian countries. The African is larger, and is in fact the largest animal on land.
Its shoulders can be up to 11 feet high and it can weigh up to six tons. Elephants use their trunks to breathe, wash, or hold things. They live up to 45 years in the wild, but only about 18 years in zoos. Animal rights organisations believe there are 15,000 to 20,000 elephants in captivity worldwide.
“Elephants need to be in constant motion.”
“They walk up to 50 miles a day. When they don’t move, that’s when they have physical problems.”
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The largest elephant ever was an adult African male who weighed around a ton (24,000 pounds) and about 4m (13 feet) tall at the shoulder.
Elephant brains are three or four times larger than humans, but are a smaller portion of overall body weight. They have one tusk they use more than the other, just like humans do with their hands.
Today, many elephants are in national parks or other managed areas. That is the closest thing to being the wild as they can get. Because they need a lot of space to roam, it is argued that zoos are not the best places for elephants.
There were millions of African elephants and hundreds of thousands of Asian elephants alive at the beginning of the 20th century. Today, there are between 450,000 – 700,000 African elephants and 35,000 – 40,000 wild Asian elephants. They are in danger.
Elephant poaching is a another big threat to their existence both Asia and Africa. “Poisoning and shooting and electrocutions of elephants is a big problem,” said Sybille Klenzendorf, director of the species conservation program with the World Wildlife Fund.
But habitat loss is the greatest threat to the vast majority of wildlife, including elephants. Approximately half of the world’s original forests are gone, and what remains is still being removed ten times faster than it can be replaced.
At the same time, elephant attacks on humans are increasing, especially after the matriarchs of a herd are killed. Without supervision, the teenage orphans have no boundaries and some become very aggressive.
After a crackdown on poaching in Botswana, South Africa and Namibia, elephant numbers in one national park nearly doubled in five years.
Tusk, a charity working to save animals in danger, says that helping people understand the importance of wildlife and how to avoid conflict is essential for developing greater tolerance.
They also have some practical options, from using beehive fences (elephants don’t like bees), to elephant trenches, and using deterrents like chilli (yes, chilli!) alongside planning better use of land. Read more about it here.
Elephants never forget, let’s not forget them.