Scientific Name: Elephas maximus
Range and Habitat: Forests of India, Ceylon, Burma, Indo-China
Size: Males can be up to 10 feet tall at the shoulder and weigh six tons
Median Life Expectancy: 46.9 years for elephant cows (females). Research data is not available for bulls (males).
Gestation: 22 Months
Wild Diet: Grass, leaves, shrubs, fruit, tubers and bark
Zoo Diet: Adult elephants eat about two bales of hay, five gallons of grain, cabbage, carrots, oranges, apples, bananas, two loaves of bread and drink 40 gallons of water every day.
Habits: Elephants live in social herds of 30 or more led by a matriarchal cow. Adult males are solitary and live outside the herd. Elephants grow throughout their lifetime and grow six sets of molars (24 in all). The ivory tusks are overgrown incisor teeth, and in Asian elephants only males grow long tusks. The trunk is used for breathing, as a tool for picking up objects, for eating, for sucking water to bathe or drink, and for spraying dust over the back. The skin is soft and sensitive, and dust baths help protect it from insects and sun.
Elephants love to swim and often swim with their bodies almost completely underwater, with only their trunks sticking out. They can run as fast as 24 miles per hour for short distances (twice as fast as humans). An elephant’s ears help keep it cool on hot days. When its body is warm, an elephant flaps its ears, which cools the blood in the many blood vessels in the ears. The cooled blood is carried through the rest of the body, cooling the elephant.
Status: Endangered due to poaching and loss of habitat, it is estimated that only 35,000 remain in isolated pockets throughout Southeast Asia and India. The long-term viability of wild elephants is in jeopardy, and captive breeding and study of elephants in zoos like Dickerson Park may be their only hope for survival.