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Elephants are the largest land mammals. They live in a matriarchal society. This means the decisions that affect the family are made by the matriarch, usually the oldest and largest of the females. The matriarch is chosen by her age, ability to lead, experience and personality. There are three living species of elephants. Two of these are from Africa and one is from Asia.
African Savanna Elephants
The African savanna elephant is the largest of the three species. They weigh up to seven tons and are twice the size of the African forest elephant. African elephants have large ears that are similar in shape to the continent of Africa. Males and females have tusks. The savanna elephant's natural habitat is the grassy savanna plain. The male savanna elephant prefers to remain solo except when teaching young males social behavior and during mating.
African Forest Elephants
The African forest elephant is a genetically separate species from the African savanna elephant. Males and females have tusks that are longer and thinner than those of the savanna elephants. The forest elephants are smaller than the savanna elephants and their smoother skin makes it easier to travel through the brush. Males are sociable and enjoy the company of other males. Logging, mining, road building and illegal hunting are threatening the survival of this endangered elephant.
The Asian elephant has smaller, rounder ears and a flatter forehead than those of the African elephants. Only the male of the species has tusks. The Asian elephant's trunk has a finger-like appendage that is used as an aid in grabbing and picking things up. The African elephant's trunk has 2 of these appendages. The Asian elephant is an endangered species. There are between 35,000 and 50,000 Asian elephants left in the world.
Some Interesting Facts About Elephants
Elephants are herbivores, eating tree bark, roots, fruits and grasses. They can eat up to 300 pounds of food a day. An elephant's trunk has more than 100,000 muscles. The trunk is used for breathing, smelling, trumpeting, stroking and grabbing. Elephants can fill their trunks with water and hose themselves off. The matriarch of a family chooses when the herd will travel and where they will travel to.
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