The Zambian Elephant is one of the big five of the forest. Here is the information about the giant of the Zambian forest that you should know…
The bulky of the animal’s social life is woven around a family unit, consisting of an adult female (cow) and her offspring (calf) and two or more closely related females and their offspring. When they are about 16 years old at puberty, bulls (males) leave the family unit and join bachelor groups or move about alone.
The calf takes a good first year of its life to know how to use its most valuable asset, the trunk. You occasionally see it tripping over it, stepping on it or otherwise awkwardly twisting and turning it. The calf does not feed from the mothers breasts using its trunk; rather it lets the trunk curl back over its heard and nurses by mouth.
Mother elephant feeds her calf on her milk for at least three to four years before she weans it. By this time the protruding tusks on the calf were inflicting pain on the mother when she was feeding the calf.
The muscular trunk is the most remarkable feature on an adult animal. It serves as a nose, a hand, an extra foot, a signalling device and a tool for gathering food, siphoning water, dusting, digging and a variety of other functions. It can reach up to 7 meters with its trunk and can perform movements as delicate as picking berries or caressing a companion.
It is also capable of powerful twisting and coiling movements when tearing down trees or fighting. Two finger like projections at the tip of its trunk are sensitive enough to pick a blade of grass. The trunk houses a very sensitive nose and this supplements the animal’s shortfall in its sight and hearing through use of the sensitive trunk. An extended trunk is an equivalent of a greeting in what appears to be a measured motion of affection.
When the trunk cannot be used due to disease or a poachers snare, it means it can’t eat and it can’t drink. An elephant can suck as much as 6 litters of water for drinking or spraying itself. It can consume 190 litres through this way, along with 200 to 300 kilograms of food daily. All this is made possible by use of the versatile trunk.
Hence when the trunk is damaged, the animal is in very big trouble and this is a sure way to die faster. Some of them have been seen on their knees eating grass in order to survive.
The tusks are also remarkable features. These are greatly elongated incisors (elephants have no canine teeth); about one third of their total length lies hidden in the skull. The largest tusk on record weighed 97 kilograms and was 350 centimetres long.
But tusks of this magnitude are very rare these days because of the hunters and poachers who usually go for the biggest and longest tusks. Tusks continue to grow throughout the animal’s life span, which can go up to 60 years.
These tusks are the heaviest and longest teeth of any living creature. The tusks are capable of growing up to 5 meters in the female and 6 meters in the male, but because of the pounding they receive as they dig up soil in search of food and water, or when they lift heavy loads, the tusks tend to shorten due to breaking and chipping.
They are generally gregarious and form small family groups consisting of an older matriarch and three or four offspring, along with their young. It was once thought that these family groups were led by old bull elephants, but these males are most often solitary.
The female family groups are often visited by mature males checking for females in estrus. Several inter related family groups may inhabit an area and know each other well. When they meet at watering holes and feeding places, they greet each other affectionately.
The job of protecting the herd usually is done by females. When males grow older, they are forcibly kicked out of the social unit. When this occurs, the young bulls tend to go into a bachelor type of life. They congregate in smaller bull herds. The bulls survive on their own and they only mix when the females feel estrus.
A lot of unique things not seen in other animals have been noticed in elephants. They are the only ones known to use infrasound. This kind of sound can travel very far and this explains why they are able to keep in touch even over long distances. Low frequency sound travels longer distances than high frequency sound. Another astounding feature of an elephant is its memory. The oldest of the matriarch is able to know unfamiliar calls and herd the group into a defensive hurdle.
Elephants are herbivores and they eat grasses, bark, roots, leaves, and fruit. On average, it consumes between 200 and 300 kilograms of food daily. The best guide of determining the sex is to look at their head profiles; males have a rounded head and females a squarer head.
The flapping action of their ears when charging helps it stay cool.
Heat dissipates through its abundant blood vessels. Although its skin is 2 to 4 cm thick, it’s very sensitive. A fully grown African elephant can weigh up to 7,000 kilograms and reach a height of 4 meters. Elephants give birth to one calf after a gestation period of between 20 and 22 months.
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