By Andrew Masinde
Elephants are the largest living land mammals. These amazing creatures are favourite for animal enthusiasts and animal caretakers.
The manager Queen Elizabeth Conservation Area, Nelson Guma says elephants can grow to about 13 feet tall and weigh over 10 tonnes and can live for up to 70 years.
“Elephants spend 12-18 hours a day feeding. Due to their huge size, they require an enormous amount of food. Adult elephants can eat between 200-600kilograms of food a day. As herbivores, they consume grasses, tree foliage, bark, twigs, and other vegetation daily,” he said.
“Elephants can also drink up to 50 gallons of water a day, about as much as a standard bath tub holds,” he added.
He also said elephants have a variety of adaptations that allow them to survive in a wide range of habitats.
Their trunk is one very valuable adaptation.
“Elephants use their trunk much like humans use their hands, hey can be used to pick up food and to suck up water and shoot it into their mouth,” he explained.
They also use their trunk to suck up mud or dust and spray it over their body to protect their skin.
The trunk too contains a well-developed sense of touch and often used to comfort other herd members.
According to Birra Patronella, interpretive guide, elephants' ivory tusks are elongated incisor teeth.
“They use the tusks to dig out waterholes in dry riverbeds. They excavate the holes using their trunk, feet and tusks,” she explained.
An elephants' ears help them to stay cool. The ears are filled with blood vessels; by holding them out in the wind or flapping them, an elephant can create its own cooling system,” she explained.
She added that sometimes when you see it flap the ears very first, you have to leave its way because that is a sign that it is charging and any time it is about to attack.
“Young females often assist their mothers with calf care and provide all mothering for younger calves in the herd. Since female elephants are known to remain reproductive throughout most of their lives, this is their primary activity beyond eating and drinking,” she said.
Guma said male elephants in the wild, are driven out of the family group as they approach sexual maturity and they spend as much of their lives alone.
“Though males are mainly lonely in adulthood, they do at times associate in bachelor groups. In early years of adulthood, the young bulls spend time learning the capabilities of other bulls in their area and start a social hierarchy and status,” he explained.
“Elephants are highly intelligent animals with complex social behaviours that include threat displays, charging, and fighting among others. They use their ears as signalling devices, often to warn the herd of approaching danger,” he adds.