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Elephant, The World's Largest Mammmal On Land
Habitat And Classification
Elephant, the heaviest and massive-bodied animal, presently occupying the grassland, forests, and mountains of East Africa (Zimbabwe, Zambia, and Kenya), and South and South east Asia (India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Burma, Indonesia, Bangla Desh, and Thailand), has been active on this planet with various sizes for about last 45 million years suggesting that Africa and Asia were and are homes to elephants.Elephant is related to proboscidean because of its long flexible trunk and tusk. Through out its history it has remained a large and gigantic mammal of the forests and plains. Elephants are characterised by a long trunk and Ivory tusks. The trunk is an elongation of nose. The nostrils are located at the tip of the trunk. The trunk is flexible and is often used to pick up food and plucking branches and leaves from the trees. When feeding on stretched grass, Asiatic elephant uses their trunk which helps them just like a hand to the human. It is pulled up and inserted directly in to the mouth. There are no anterior teeth other than the large upper tusks. The single upper incisor (anterior tooth) in each half upper jaw grows into a tusk. The tusks are of very large size and curve forward, outward, and upward. The elephants have no lower incisors and canines teeth, they masticate their food by crunching it against the horny pad. Tail is of moderate length. The head of the elephant is big. Their body is massive as its maximum height is four metres and a weight approximate up to six tonnes. The brain weighs five kg. but it is small if compared with the size of skull.
Modern elephants are gregarious. Males are capable of reproduction at 10 -17 years of age whereas, Females attain the sexual maturity between nine to 12 years of age. Their gestation period is about 21-22 months. Normally, single calf (baby elephant) is born. The mother feeds baby for about a year. The weight of the newly born baby is about 50-50 kg.
There Diet And Use Of Elephants
Elephants are herbivores (plant eaters) and eat about 150- 225 kg of forage a day. Their food consists of tree leaves, twigs, fruits, flowers, and bulbs. Wild Asian Elephants eat more than their African cousins. Elephants in captivity also eat apples, cabbages, fruits and vegetables and drink a lot of water.
Elephants have been used and are being used by the people in different ways. Asiatic elephant is commonly used as beast that carries burden. But in ancient times they were tamed for warfare. For example, in India, in the Mughal Imperial period the use of elephant was obvious in wars. But when it died the meat was usually fed to the dogs even it's been done today. The plight of the most elephants in the city is that they are put on exhibit in the circus to perform their skill in playing balls and lifting other performers etc. mainly to amuse the spectators.
Asian elephants have been domesticated for centuries. This animal is very intelligent, docile, and submissive when treated well, that is why it is taken to the carnivals around the world. In Asia, it used as a draft animal and also for transportation and hunting purposes. It has been hunted ruthlessly for centuries for its valuable ivory. Ivory is obtained both from African and Asiatic elephants tusks.
Up till now tusks are the largest and the heaviest teeth of any living animal. They are powerful and strong so much so that with the help of the tusks the elephant can root out a tree from the soil and also with the help of the tusks elephants dig the earth to extract the nuts to eat. Of course, they are used mainly by the elephants to remove obstacles while passing through the woods.
Elephants also use their tusks to remove the skin of the trees, fighting each other during mating season. The tusk of Asiatic elephant weighs about 30 kg. but an African male elephant has 20-45 kg. heavy tusks. The ancient people collected ivory from the tusks for the commercial purposes and traded with it. In China many articles are being produced from it. So elephants are more desirable and an enticing source for hunters for their evil intensions.
Due a great number of hunting which cause a threat to elephant breeding the governments through out the world have put a ban on their hunting. So in most of the African countries the ivory has been stored and gathered up illegally to unstop their trade. In spite of the threat these countries are still demanding to lift the ban from ivory trade. However, the main elephants hosting countries are not in favour. If the ban continues the survival of the elephants is certain. Otherwise they will be remembered as one of the extinct animals among so many others.
Difference Between African And Asian Elephants
The African genus of elephant is called Loxodonta, whereas the Asiatic genus is known as Elephas. Elephas is distinguished from loxodont in that the former has small ears, usually four hoofs that are nails on the hind foot, 19 pairs of ribs, and 33 caudal (tail) vertebrae. The forehead is flat and the top of the head is the highest point of the animal. The Elephas is intelligent and can easily be tamed for riding, lifting load, and can be used in circus for the amusement. In the African genus the ears are large and there are generally three hoofs on the hind foot, 21 pairs of ribs, and 26 caudal vertebrae. The forehead is more convex and the back more sloping, so the shoulders are the highest points in African elephant.
The African male elephants reach the height of four metres. The cows (female elephants) reach to the height of about 3.75 metres. But the Asian elephants are shorter as compared to the Africans. The average height of the Asian elephant is three metres. And the cows reach the height of 2.4 metres. They have dark grey skin, a bulbous forehead and a rounded back. The tusks of loxodonta are long and curved a little. The head is not short or deep. In contrast with the Loxodonta the skull of the Asiatic elephant is short and deep with rounded vault. The weight of the African elephant is more than the weight of Asiatic elephant.
Their Fossil And The Mammoth
The fossils of the elephants have been found almost on every part of the world except that of Australia and Antarctica. The Moeritherium, an earliest known pig-sized, ancestor of the modern elephants appeared about 45 million years' old rocks in the region now known as Egypt. The formation of the tusks had begun in Moeritherium. Another primitive Phioma, Proboscidean has also been found in Egypt in about 38 million years' old sediments. Although, the tusk and trunk were small but were visible enough. The fossils of the Proboscideans have been found in Europe, Eurasia, and Africa.
Furthermore, the fossils of Mastodon and Mammoth have been encountered in old world and America. The Mastodon is an extinct mammal which resembles elephant use to live before the end of the Pliocene (about 15 million years ago). It persisted in North America through Pleistocene. In American Mastodon, the tusks were straight forward and not much curved.
‘Mammoth' is the common name for several extinct species of elephant family. It had curved tusks about three metres long and a prominent hump on the back. The first mammoth appeared in Africa about five million years ago. It was about five metres high from the shoulders and its weight was approximately 16 metric tonnes. The Mammoths with their thick hairy coat known as ‘wooly' were found in many northern regions during the late Pleistocene epoch (about one million years ago).
The hairy mammoth used to live in Europe, Asia, and North America. It had a layer of thick fat of about three inches beneath its skin. These hair and fat protected it from the severe cold. In 1799, in Siberia the fossils of frozen mammoths were found in a block of ice. Nearly, four years after their discovery, the head and tusks started to expose as the ice began to thaw. In India, Burma and Borneo Stegolophodon's fossils are also found. Their tusks were straight or slightly curved and the teeth were large.