What predators can elephants kill?


Elephant multiplication table

40,000 muscles ensure that elephants not only smell with their trunks, but can also feel and touch. The gestation period of the females is the longest in the animal kingdom at 22 to 24 months, the newborn with an average of 100 kilograms the heaviest.

Biologists differentiate between three types of elephants: The one lives in the southern half of Africa Steppe elephant. With a height of up to four meters, it is the giant of its kind.

The smallest elephant species at 2.40 meters is native to the same continent: The Forest elephant lives in the rainforests of Central and West Africa.

In the Asian region, as the name suggests, is the Asian elephant to be found. It is native to India, Sri Lanka and some of the Sunda Islands.

The appearance of African and Asian elephants is very different: the Asians have noticeably smaller ears, two humps on the skull and a slightly more curved back. In addition, they only have one grasping finger on the tip of their trunk, whereas the African elephants have two.

They can also be distinguished by the tusks: While in Africa both sexes have extremely elongated incisors in the upper jaw, in Asian females they are often only partially or not at all.

Model student

Scientists are always surprised at the elephants' cleverness. In 2006 a team of researchers from the American Emory University in Atlanta found out that the gray colossi can recognize themselves in their reflection.

What we humans take for granted was previously only proven in the animal kingdom in apes, dolphins and magpies. The mirror test is used in behavioral research as an indication of a high level of empathy and the ability to act for the common good.

At the same university in 2011, zoologists proved what observations had already suggested: elephants can collectively solve a new task. For this purpose, the scientists built a test facility in which an elephant could only get food with the help of a conspecific. The elephants understood quickly and were ready to wait for the trunk to help.

The Japanese scientist Naoko Irie from the University of Tokyo found out that elephants are real arithmetic masters. Many animals can roughly differentiate between smaller and larger quantities, but elephants do not cause problems even in large quantities and small differences in addition.

social behaviour

While bull elephants leave their herd after puberty and become more and more loners, the females remain in their family unit for their entire life.

The herd is led by a lead cow. It is usually the oldest and most experienced animal. Everyone's survival depends on their knowledge of the best places to feed and water.

The cohesion in the female group is strong. They help each other with the birth and the rearing of the offspring. Sick and old animals are taken into consideration, and if necessary they are helped with nudging and pushing to get back on their feet.

The common grief over a deceased herd member touches us humans particularly. The elephants often stand watch over the carcass for days and do not seem to want to understand that their mate will be missing forever.

Elephant talks

Anyone who is so social has to be able to communicate well. Elephants can growl, roar, bark, grunt and trumpet. So far, scientists have discovered ten different types of sound.

In addition, each type of sound has a very different meaning depending on the version. So there is the oestrus roar of a ready-to-conceive female. If no partner is in sight, she uses it to summon the males. If she has already made her choice of mate, but is being harassed by another bull, she warns her chosen one with this roar to act quickly or to forego the mating.

Since the different types of sounds are combined with one another, especially when excited, elephants have many ways of communicating. Such a complex elephant language is not born in the cradle of the offspring. The zoologist Angela Stöger-Howarth found out that the little ones first have to learn to a large extent.

For us humans it is only possible with technical aids to overhear the conversations of the elephants: Two thirds of the pachyderms use infrasound sounds. We can no longer hear these deep tones.

In addition, the sounds are not only spread through the air, but also as sound waves through the ground. The American Caitlin O'Connell-Rodwell has already been able to prove that the animals perceive this so-called substrate sound and react appropriately to the subterranean messages.

Elephants in need

Elephants are nomads and roam large stretches of land in search of food. But that made it difficult. Human settlements block their routes and occupy their feeding grounds. Conflicts are inevitable: the elephants empty the farmers' fields, invade villages, kill people.

Ultimately, the elephant always has to give way. But where? Experience has shown that individual nature reserves quickly become home to an overpopulation of pachyderms. The endeavor to leave traditional hiking trails as protected corridors for the animals usually fails due to the interests of agriculture. In countries where people have to fight for their own survival, animal welfare is usually of little importance.

Another problem is the illegal ivory trade. As early as the 20th century, the hunt for the precious tusks caused a dramatic decline in the elephant population.

Due to the Washington Convention on Endangered Species, which only allows legal trade in elephants and their products in exceptional cases, the populations were able to recover in some regions.