Does An Elephant Have Any Natural Predators?
There are two subspecies of African elephant: the savanna elephant (Loxodonta africana) and the forest elephant (Loxodonta cyclotis). The savanna elephant is found in eastern and southern Africa, living in varied habitat including marsh, savanna, woodlands, and semi-desert.
All four elephants at the Maryland Zoo are African elephants of the savanna type. In March 2007, the Zoo celebrated the first elephant birth in its 132-year history. “Samson,” a male calf, was born to “Felix,” one of 2 adult females in the Zoo’s herd. “Anna” is the other adult female, and “Tuffy” is the adult bull. You can see the elephants on exhibit in the Zoo’s African Journey area.
Elephants are the largest land mammals on earth and have distinctly massive bodies, large ears, and long trunks.
Elephant (family Elephantidae), the largest land animal on earth, is characterized by a long trunk, columnar legs and a huge head with large ears and temporal glands. Elephants have a grayish-brown colour and sparse, coarse body hair. Elephants are most commonly found in savannas and grasslands but also inhabit a variety of habitats including swamps, highlands and deserts in tropical and subtropical areas of Africa and Asia. The African bush elephant, also known as the African savanna elephant, can weigh up to 9 tons and stand 3 to 4 meters (10 to 13 feet).
Proboscidean (order Proboscidea) is a group of extinct mammals, including elephants as well as their extinct relatives mammoths or mastodons. Despite the fact that only three elephant species are alive, remains from more than 160 extinct proboscidean types have been found in all continents but Australia and Antarctica. These were mostly called gomphotheres and belonged to another family than elephants. Elephants and mammoths are both members of the Elephantidae family, which is the only remaining proboscidean.
Elephants are family-oriented animals with complex social lives. Related females live together for life in herds and raise offspring together. All members of a herd defer to one leader, the oldest and wisest female in the family group, known as the matriarch. She leads the others to water and food, decides when to sleep and when to move, responds first to threats, and basically takes charge in every conceivable situation.
As male elephants reach adolescence, they strike out on a different path from their female relatives. They leave their birth herds. Young males often seek out other males their age and form close bonds. Younger males also may associate with older males in loose groups known as bachelor herds. While the social lives of both male and female elephants remain mysterious in many ways, and while there are still many questions to be answered, it appears that male elephants learn and practice how to “be male” while in the company of other males in bachelor herds.
Adult male elephants also are inclined instinctively to spend much of their time alone. This is especially true when a male elephant enters musth, a period of heightened aggression that paves the way for asserting dominance and competing successfully for females. All male elephants are in constant search of mates, but only those that assert their dominance over other males will win the right to breed.
Elephants eat between 149 and 169 kg (330-375 lb.) of vegetation daily. Sixteen to eighteen hours, or nearly 80% of an elephant’s day is spent feeding. Elephants consume grasses, small plants, bushes, fruit, twigs, tree bark, and roots. Tree bark is a favorite food source for elephants. It contains calcium and roughage, which aids digestion. Tusks are used to carve into the trunk and tear off strips of bark.
Elephants require about 68.4 to 98.8 L (18 to 26 gal.) of water daily, but may consume up to 152 L (40 gal.). An adult male elephant can drink up to 212 L (55 gal.) of water in less than five minutes.
To supplement the diet, elephants will dig up earth to obtain salt and minerals. The tusks are used to churn the ground. The elephant then places dislodged pieces of soil into its mouth, to obtain nutrients. Frequently these areas result in holes that are several feet deep and vital minerals are made accessible to other animals. Ex: Over time, African elephants have hollowed out deep caverns in a volcano mountainside on the Ugandan border, to obtain salt licks and minerals. Hills have been carved by Asian elephants in India and Sumatra searching for salt and minerals. These carved areas in the landscape provide valuable food and shelter resources for a diverse array of native wildlife.
How Do Elephants Communicate?
Elephants can communicate with each other over long distances through sound, including low-frequency infrasound that we can’t hear. Standing up close to an elephant making an infrasonic call, you might hear or feel a low rumble. Another elephant would be able to hear that infrasonic call up to 12 miles away! Elephants also communicate through touch, sight, smell, and chemical processing. Body language is highly developed in elephants. Their sense of smell is as exceptional as their sense of hearing, and they also exhibit long-term memory. They are extremely social animals that protect their weakest, help their injured, and seem to mourn their dead.
Elephants affect their environment perhaps more than any other creature on earth. Their size, strength, and food needs make this inevitable. They can completely change a landscape just by feeding. They strip bark and leaves from trees and bushes, pull trees straight out of the ground, trample underbrush, dig for roots, dig holes in dry riverbeds to reach water, and spread plant seeds over many miles with dung deposits. There can be no mistaking when an elephant herd has passed through an area. Because of their tremendous environmental impact, elephants also greatly influence the survival and adaptive strategies of many other plant and animal species sharing the same ecosystem.
What Predators Does An Elephant Have?
Given their tremendous size and strength, and because they gather in groups, elephants have few predators to worry about. Lions, hyenas, and crocodiles may attempt to prey on young or sick elephants. However, elephants are often successful at fending off predators, protecting their young, and defending sick or injured herd mates. For example, when a matriarch detects a nearby predator, she will herd offspring together and all other adult females in the group will form an outward facing circle around them, providing many layers of protection from the would-be attacker. Elephants are most vulnerable to, and threatened by, humans. Demand for elephant tusks – the main source of commercial ivory – has led to aggressive poaching that has decimated elephant populations across Africa. Elephants may also fall victim to farmers defending their crops or local residents fearful of interactions with elephants. Although it is illegal to kill wild African elephants, it has proven extremely difficult to eradicate poaching and other elephant killings.
Can King Corba’s venom kill an elephant? If not, why do types of snakes have venom to kill an adult elephant?
Slightly smaller than their African cousins, adult Asian elephants weigh on average between 6,000 and 12,000 pounds (2,750 and 5,420 kilograms). They typically stand 6 to 12 feet (1.8 to 3.8 meters) tall at the shoulder. Males are usually larger than females. An elephant’s skin is 2.5cm thick in most places. I use Asian Elephant because they are smaller and unlike their African cousins may in fact encounter an king cobra as they share some habitats.
The King cobra (Ophiophagus hannah) is the longest venomous snake in the world, and it can inject very high volumes of venom in a single bite. The venom LD 50 is 1.80 mg/kg SC. It can deliver up to 420 mg venom in dry weight (400-600 mg overall) per bite, there are very few reports of king cobras biting a single person repeatedly. However, it isn’t outside of the realm of possibility. The king cobra’s deadly fangs are almost 0.5 inches (8 to 10 millimeters) long. Because they are fixed to the upper jaw, they have to be short. If they were longer, they would penetrate the floor of its mouth.
So the first hurdle would be, to be able to pierce the 25mm thick skin of the pachyderm (literally meaning thick skinned) so that the venom can be injected into the subcutaneous tissue. The King Cobra will have to look for a relatively thin patch of skin as its fangs are but 10mm long.
Now between 2750 and 5420 kilograms are a wide spread for the weight of an adult Asian elephant, but let’s be generous and use 2750kg in our calculations. With an LD 50 of 1.80 mg/kg SC an lethal dose (in 50% of subjects) will be 4950mg. Yet it’s nominal yield is only about 420mg. In milking, an 1000mg sample was obtained and could, if you stretch your imagination be considered as a maximum yield if repeated bites (not common) were delivered. Still a bit short.
Even if you use the LD50 of 1.28 mg/kg IV (intravenously) even less plausible as the fangs will still be too short but the fangs will also have to accidentally pierce a vein or artery to deliver the venom intravenously, a dose of 3520mg of venom is still needed to be lethal again in half of the cases.
How Do Elephants Breed?
Female elephants reach sexual maturity at about age 10 but may not mate for several more years. When females come into estrus, they attract breeding bulls. Bulls of the highest rank will gain access to females and breed. After an exceptionally long pregnancy of about 22 months, a female will give birth to usually one calf, and very rarely to twins. She will nurse her offspring for about 4 years, usually until she gives birth again, but she will care for each offspring for many years more. Baby and juvenile elephants in a herd have the benefit of multiple caregivers, as all female relatives share in raising the young. In particular, young females take on the role of allomother, which is comparable to babysitter. They keep watch over the youngest elephants, help them, comfort them, play with them, and gain mothering experience all the while. Research has shown that elephant family groups with few or no allomothers suffer higher infant mortality than those with allomothers.
African elephants are listed as endangered by the IUCN, the world’s leading conservation organization. Conservation issues affecting African elephants are complicated. Despite an international ban on ivory trade passed in 1989, poaching remains a significant threat. Competition with humans for limited space and resources is an equally significant threat. African elephants once ranged freely from south of the Sahara Desert to northern South Africa. Today, they are mostly confined to parks and reserves. As a result, their natural habitats are fragmented and there can end up being too many elephants in too little space, yet those that range outside of protected borders are quite likely to come into conflict with people or to be killed by poachers. In order to insure that African elephants continue to walk the earth for many generations to come, successful long-term resolution to human-elephant competition and conflict must be achieved.