Wednesday, January 4, 2012

ELEPHANTS : Order - Proboscidea : Family - Elephantidae

AFRICAN ELEPHANT - Loxodanta africana.

The largest land mammal,fully mature bulls weight on average 5000kg (maximum 6000)and average 3m in height(record is 4m) cows 3000kg(maximum 3500) and 2.5m tall.

Teeth: 1 functional cheek tooth in each quarter,a total of 6 sets of progressively larger size,tusks(upper incisors)grow continuously,size genetically controlled but also age-dependent,averaging 61kg at 60 years old for bulls and 9.2kg for cows,record length 355cm.

Feet: 4 nails on fore,3 on hindfeet.

Skin: Gray or brown,wrinkled,up to 3cm thick but pliable and sensitive,sprinkled with sharp,coarse bristles;trunk,ears,and forehead fuzzy with long sensory hairs.

Ears: Up to 2m high and 1.5m wide.

Genitalia :Opening downward through skin flap between rear legs in both sexes,testes internal,extended penis recurved to rear except when fully erect.

Scent Glands: Unique temporal glands weighing up to 3kg in males,rarely over 1kg in females.

Mammae: 2 between forelegs.

Longevity: Up to 60 years

Senses: Hearing and smell excellent,eyesight moderate,best in dim light.

As recent as the early 1980's an estmated 1.3 million elephants survived,an indication that sizeable blocks of wilderness remained(especiall in Zaire)remote and sparesly settled,for parks and reserves sheltered only a small fraction of the total,but a greatly accelerated slaughter had already begun,fueled by the price of ivory to $100/kg(from $7.44/kg in 1970),by the end of the decade elephant populations over much of east Africa had declined by up to 80%,both outside and inside the parks. In Douglas-Hamilton's words,"the premature elimination of elephants over much of their range represents one of the most wasteful mammalian tragedies of the century"

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