Elephants may look large and intimidating, but they are one of nature’s most endearing animals. And, unsurprisingly, kids love Elephants. Feeding an elephant is brilliant fun because it uses its long trunk to pick food and put it in its mouth. Riding this gigantic creature is also one experience that the kids will love. An elephant stands out amongst other wild animals mainly because of its exceptionally unique structure and built. And, your child may have numerous questions about Elephants.
And, you don’t need to worry if you are not well versed with information about elephants. Because we at MomJunction have prepared a list of some information and incredible facts about elephants for kids that will help answer all of your child’s queries.
25 Incredible Elephant Information and Facts For Kids:
1. What Is An Elephant?
The name elephant is derived from the Greek word ‘elephas’ which refers to ‘ivory’. The elephant is the largest mammal living on land. According to National Geographic’s website, African elephants grow up to around 8.2 to 13 feet from shoulder to toe, while Asian elephants can grow up to 6.6 to 9.8 feet (2 to 3 m) from shoulder to toe. African elephants weigh anything between 2,268 to 6,350 kg while Asian elephants weigh around 2,041 to 4,990 kg .
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2. What Are The Different Types Of Elephants?
Based on the region they are found in elephants are categorized into two types: African and Asian. Loxodonta Africana is commonly known as African elephants, and Elephas Maximus are commonly known as Asian Elephants.
3. Where Do Elephants Live And What Kind Of Climate Do They Prefer?
African elephants are mostly found in sub-Saharan Africa. They also live in the rain forests of Central and West Africa and the Sahel desert in Mali. African elephants usually prefer the Savanna region as it is full of grass with plenty of trees scattered around. And, the Savannas receive around 20 to 50 inches of rainfall every year. The temperature in the savanna is anything between 60 and 75 degrees. The Savanna region gets rain for only 6 to 8 months in a year.
Some African elephants live in deserts and mountains. Elephants living in deserts walk up to 60 miles a day in search of food and water. They also dig holes in the ground for water. In the case of lack of green cover, elephants depend on salt licks and water with higher amounts of minerals for survival.
Asian elephants can be found in thorn-scrub forests of Srilanka, Southern region of India and Thailand. These elephants prefer hot, humid, and grassy areas around jungles. They are found in regions full of grass, trees, and shrubs that make it convenient for them to feed on. Asians elephants migrate according to the time of the year. January to April is generally the dry season when elephants migrate to river valleys in search of water from the rivers. The next 4 months, May to August they shift to the tall grass forests, where the ongoing rainy season gives rise to plenty of the grass cover. The last 4 months of the year, September to December, elephants spend in the short grass of the open forests.
4. What Do Elephants Eat?
Elephants are avid eaters and spend up to 16 hours a day eating. A fully grown adult elephant can consume around 300 kg of food and 160 liters of water every day. On an average, African elephants can eat up to 250 kilograms of food while the Asian elephant can eat up to 150 kilograms of food. They are herbivores and only consume small plants, grasses, roots, fruits, twigs, and bark. Elephants love eating tree bark the most because it is rich in calcium and roughage that helps in better digestion. It uses its tusk to carve into the trunk and tear off strips of bark. Elephants dig into the earth to obtain salt and minerals. If the weather is dry or there is less grass to eat, elephants will eat almost any kind of vegetation available. They will dig for roots and water using their tusks. Most of the food eaten by elephants is left undigested, and their excreta usually serves as food for monkeys and other animals.
When in captivity, elephants are mostly fed cabbage, lettuce, sugar cane, and fruits like apples and bananas. However, hay is the staple diet of an elephant and is fed that on a regular basis. Sugarcane is the favorite food of the Indian elephant. Additionally, it also enjoys eating a lot of crops which is one of the main reasons why elephants pose a nuisance running in fields and rice paddies looking for food.
5. What Do Elephants Drink?
African elephants drink 60 liters of water a day while the Asian elephant drinks 40 liters of water on an average per day. A fully grown male elephant can drink up to 212 L (55 gallons) of water within five minutes. Elephants prefer living near water bodies because they consume water in large quantity.
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6. What Is The Elephants Anatomy?
An elephant’s body structure is well adapted to sustain in the harsh climate of Africa and Asia. Let’s have a look at the different parts of an elephant’s body and their uses.
Long Trunk: An elephant’s long trunk is an extension of its upper lip and nose. Its trunk consists of around 1,00,000 muscles and can bend and twist easily. It is 2 meters long with a weight of around 140 kg. Other than breathing air, an elephant’s trunks help it do a number of other things such as:
- When in danger, the elephant first raises its trunk to smell and understand its threat.
- It brings water and food to its mouth.
- It stores water to drink later or even to sprinkle on the body while bathing or cleaning. A trunk can hold about six liters of water.
- It helps to knock down trees
- It makes sounds that enable an elephant to communicate with other elephants.
- It is used to lift and move their little ones.
- It is used to beat an unfamiliar ground to check if it is hard enough for the elephant to walk on it.
Big Ears: Elephants have large ears that enable them to catch slightest of sound. The African elephant’s ears are almost 3 times larger than an Asian elephant’s ears. Its ears help with the following functions:
- Elephants cannot sweat. Its ears have numerous capillaries and veins that filter hot blood in the arteries and send cool blood to the body thus maintaining its body temperature.
- Since the elephant’s ears are hyper-sensitive, it easily communicates with other elephants over large distances.
- If ever confronted by a dangerous attacker, the elephant spreads its ears wide to scare the attacker by appearing larger.
Sturdy Feet: An elephant has two front feet and two back feet. However, not all elephants have the same number of toes on each foot. The African elephants have 4 toes on their front feet while Asian elephants have 5 toes. Similarly, African elephants have 3 toes on their back feet whereas Asian elephants have 4 toes. Its back legs appear longer than the front legs because of its high shoulder. Elephant’s toes are not visible because they are hidden inside their feet with only toenails visible on the outside. Their feet have fatty connective tissue that acts like shock absorbers enabling the elephant to move soundlessly. The ridges and pits on the feet help the elephant to maintain stability while moving around. The shape of the elephant’s footprint indicates the gender of the elephant. Female elephants leave rounded footprints while male elephants tend to have oval shaped footprints. Footprints can also be used to determine the animals age. If the footprint is well defined then, the elephant will be young while undefined footprints usually belong to older elephants since their feet have worn out over the years.
Sensitive Skin: Elephant skin is thick and tough except for a few certain regions such as its back and sides. The skin near its ears, eyes, chest, and shoulders is the thinnest. An elephant’s skin is sensitive and needs to be protected from the sun. It enjoys rolling in muddy water as it rubs the mud on its skin to protect it from getting sunburned. Female elephants always shadow their little offsprings to shield them from the harsh sun. The elephant’s skin is super sensitive to the extent that it can feel even a tiny fly sitting on it. The wrinkles on the elephant’s skin help it maintain its body temperature. These wrinkles expand in water allowing more skin surface to absorb moisture. It traps water and keeps the elephant cools even after it is out of the water. Skin is also a determining factor of the elephant’s descent. Asian elephant’s skin is finer as compared with African elephants. It may also be colorless except for the ‘white spots’ on the elephant’s ears and forehead.
Double Tusks: The white curved teeth sticking out of an elephant’s mouth is its tusk. They are made of ivory. Male African elephants have long and large tusks while female African elephants have short tusks that are hardly visible. Moreover, male elephants generally have heavier, longer, and thicker tusks as compare to female elephants. Among Asian elephants only male elephants have tusks whereas most female elephants have small tusk-like teeth that are known as tushes. Tusks grow throughout the life of an elephant. Just like how humans have one dominant hand either left or right, elephants also have their preference for tusks. The tusk the elephant favors more is shorter because it is used more often for daily tasks.
Tusks are used for the following purposes:
- Fight and defend itself
- Peel off bark of trees
- Crack open hard-shelled fruits
- Dig in the ground for food, minerals and salts
- Carry heavy loads
- Clear debris
Conveying Teeth: Elephants have a unique set of teeth wherein the teeth start growing from the back moving towards the front. Elephant’s teeth are large and flat, ideal for chewing plants and grass. As each tooth gets worn out, a new tooth replaces it. An elephant has 24 teeth but can use only two at a time. The teeth of African elephants have diamond shaped ridges running across the teeth while Asian elephants have parallel ridges.
Large Brain: The elephant is one of the most intelligent animals. Its brain is 4 times the size of an average human’s brain and is the largest amongst all mammals. The female elephant’s brain is smaller than the male elephant’s brain. However, despite the difference in the brain size, female elephants are believed to be equal to or even smarter than male elephants. Despite the enormity in size, an elephant’s brain occupies a small area at the back of its skull.
Eyes: The website Seaworld.org reports that elephant eyes are about 3.8 cm (1.5 in.) in diameter. The elephant’s eyesight is rather poor, and their vision range is barely up to 20 meters. Their eyelashes are long so as to protect the eyes from sand and dirt. The elephant not only has upper and lower eyelid but also has an extra third eyelid that moves vertically across the eye. The main purpose of this eyelid is to protect the eye when performing daily functions such as feeding, bathing, and dusting. Some elephants develop a white ring around the iris as they grow up. However, this white ring does not affect the eyesight of the elephant. The location of the eyes that is, to the side of the head gives the elephant a better peripheral vision.
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Tail: An elephant’s tail is usually 1.3 m long. The skin of the tail coarse and it has wire-like hairs. Elephants have good control over their tail and use them to swat insects and flies.
7. How Do Elephants Live And Survive In Their Natural Habitat?
Elephants do not have predators. They have a lifespan of around 60 to 70 years. Considering their huge size, they require a large area of land to live, breed and thrive. Other than food and water, elephants need favorable climates to survive, and Asian and African climates best suit the elephant which why they are majorly found in these two continents.
Elephants live in herds. But male and female elephants live differently. Female elephants live with other female elephants mostly their mothers and aunts while male elephants prefer living independently. The female group mostly led by the oldest female. Females interact with males or even other female elephants on the borders of their groups. Males generally leave the heard between the age of 12 to 15. Males have to fight it out with other males to win the attention of the female elephant. In most cases, the older elephant manages to beat the younger ones.
8. How Do Elephants Communicate With Each Other?
Elephants communicate with each other through a variety of sounds. They usually call each other with a trumpet call i.e. the sound made by blowing air through the nostril or growl. When confronted by another animal on when under any threat they growl. They have the ability to communicate over large distances with sub-sonic rumbling also known as infrasound. They mostly use this when moving around.
9. How Do Elephants Spend Their Time?
Elephants usually eat, sleep, socialize, and roam around during the day.
10. Why Are They Endangered?
Elephants are hunted for their ivory tusks. Additionally, destruction of green cover majorly in Asia has caused a loss of the elephant’s natural habitat leaving no place for its population to grow and flourish. Hunting and decline in habitat have led to the rapid decrease in elephant’s population making it an endangered animal. As per World Wild Life website, the African elephants’ range shrank from 3 million square miles in 1979 to just over 1 million square miles in 2007 .
11. How Many Elephants Are Left In The World?
As per WWF.Panda.org, in the 20th century, there were around as 3-5 million African elephants which have reduced to 470,000 in the present day .
12. What Are We Doing To Save The Elephant From Extinction?
To save the elephant governments of several countries have banned the trade of ivory and ivory products and have also declared hunting of elephants illegal. You can also help but saying no to ivory products and jewelry. You can donate to several NGO’s that work towards the preservation of elephants. Lastly, you can support the movement against China demanding it to discontinue its use of ivory .
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13. What Are The Differences Between African And Asian Elephants?
- An African elephant’s head is rounder than an Asian elephant’s head. The African elephant’s head is twin-domed with a slight dent in the center.
- African elephants have bigger ears than Asian elephants. In fact, it is said that an African elephant’s ears resemble the shape of Africa, and it is big enough to cover its neck. They have big ears because they live in a hot climate, and their ears help them cool off their body. Asian elephant’s ears are said to resemble the map of India. Their ears are small and curvy because they live in slightly cooler climate.
- The African elephant’s skin is looser and has a lot of wrinkles. The skin of Asian elephant is smoother with fewer wrinkles.
- The tip of the trunk of an African elephant has two fingers while the Asian elephant has only one finger.
- The shoulder is the highest point of the African elephant. For the Asian elephant, its highest point is its back.
- The shape of the African elephant’s back is concave while the Asian elephant generally has convex or an erect back.
- The belly of the African elephant bends more towards the hind legs. The Asian elephant’s belly is mostly straight or loose in the middle.
- Though both the types are herbivores, the African elephant’s diet is mainly consists of leaves, while the Asian elephant eats a lot of grass.
- The number of ribs in an elephant generally differs on an individual level. However, African elephants have up to 21 pairs of ribs while Asian elephants have around 20 pairs.
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Elephant Facts For Kids:
14. Baby elephants are born blind.
15. Elephants are the only mammals that are unable to jump, trot, or gallop. But they do know how to swim.
16. Elephants are afraid of bees.
17. Female elephant has the longest gestation period and are pregnant almost two years.
18. Elephants use sand as sunscreen to protect themselves from getting sunburned.
19. After humans, elephants are the only animals to have chins.
20. Elephants have a strong sense of smell and can detect water from a distance of 12 miles.
21. Like humans, elephants also have greeting ceremonies for a friend who returns to their group after a long time.
22. Elephants are intelligent and emotive. They can express grief and compassion. They learn quickly and are very playful.
23. Elephants can identify themselves in a mirror.
24. An elephant’s trunk can sense the size, shape, and temperature of an object.
25. A mother elephant often appoints multiple babysitters to look after her little one so she can eat enough to be able to feed her child.
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Elephants are amazing creatures. They care and love their dear ones just the way humans do. They cry at the death of another elephant and celebrate the arrival of a long lost friend. They are one of the most emotive animals. Sadly, they are on the brink of extinction. We hope the danger hovering over this adorable animal is warded off soon and they continue to flourish and grow the way they once did.
Have you ever been to a zoo with your child and seen an elephant? Was your child amazed or scared at seeing such a big animal? What did your child ask about the elephant? Share your experience in the comment section below.
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