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What is the African bush elephant?

At the end of the trunk are flaplike projections enabling it to perform amazingly delicate functions, such as picking up a coin from a flat surface or cracking a peanut open, blowing away the shell, and putting the kernel in the mouth. African elephants have two such extremities one above and one below ; Asian elephants have one. The trunk of the African elephant may be more extendable, but that of the Asian elephant is probably more dexterous.

22 amazing elephant facts

Elephants use the trunk like a hand in other ways as well. Tool use in elephants involves holding branches and scratching themselves in places that the trunk and tail cannot reach. Large branches are sometimes wielded, and objects may be thrown in threat displays. When elephants meet, one may touch the face of the other, or they will intertwine trunks. Breathing , drinking, and eating are all vital functions of the trunk. Most breathing is performed through the trunk rather than the mouth.

Elephants drink by sucking as much as 10 litres 2.

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They eat by detaching grasses , leaves , and fruit with the end of the trunk and using it to place this vegetation into the mouth. The trunk is also used to collect dust or grass for spraying onto themselves, presumably for protection against insect bites and the sun. Elephants produce two types of vocalization by modifying the size of the nostrils as air is passed through the trunk.

Low sounds are the growl, rolling growl, snort, and roar; high sounds are the trump, trumpet, pulsated trumpet, trumpet phrase, bark, gruff cry, and cry. Rumbling sounds initially thought to be caused by intestinal activity are now known to be produced by the voice box larynx and are considered to be similar to purring in cats. Vocalizations originate in the larynx and a special structure associated with it, the pharyngeal pouch. In the vast majority of mammals, the throat contains nine bones connected in a boxlike structure, the hyoid apparatus , that supports the tongue and the voice box.

Elephants have only five bones in the hyoid apparatus, and the gap formed by the missing bones is filled by muscles, tendons , and ligaments.

What elephant neurons look like

These looser attachments allow the larynx a great degree of freedom and enable the formation of the pharyngeal pouch just behind the tongue. This unique structure facilitates sound production and has voluntary muscles that allow the pouch to be used as a resonating chamber for calls emitted at frequencies below the range of human hearing. These low-frequency 5—24 hertz calls are responded to by other elephants up to 4 km 2.


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Low-frequency sound waves travel through the ground as well as the air, and results of experiments indicate that elephants can detect infrasonic calls as seismic waves. Elephants can produce a variety of other sounds by beating the trunk on hard ground, a tree, or even against their own tusks. In addition to sound production, the pharyngeal pouch is presumed to be used for carrying water. For centuries people have observed that on hot days and in times when there is no water nearby, elephants insert their trunks into their mouths, withdraw liquid, and spray themselves with it.

The source of this liquid and the ability of elephants to withdraw it have posed a mystery even though the pharyngeal pouch was described in Two plausible sources of the liquid are the stomach and the pharyngeal pouch. Stomach contents, however, are acidic and would irritate the skin. In addition, the sprayed liquid contains small food particles commonly found in the pharyngeal pouch, as opposed to digested food from the stomach.


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  • Finally, repeated field observations attest that elephants can spray themselves while walking or running. Another possible function of the pouch is heat absorption, especially from the sensitive brain area above it. Elephant tusks are enlarged incisor teeth made of ivory. In the African elephant both the male and the female possess tusks, whereas in the Asian elephant it is mainly the male that has tusks. When present in the female, tusks are small, thin, and often of a uniform thickness.

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    Some male Asian elephants are tuskless and are known as muknas. Tusk size and shape are inherited. Tusks are used for defense, offense, digging, lifting objects, gathering food, and stripping bark to eat from trees. They also protect the sensitive trunk, which is tucked between them when the elephant charges. African Wildlife Foundation works with people on all levels— from governments to communities—to set land aside specifically for wildlife use, and in some cases, purchase land to set it aside for conservation.

    Habitat loss poses a long-term threat to elephant populations.

    AWF is working in countries like Zambia to create protected spaces for this beloved species. AWF works with communities who live in close quarters with wildlife, to recruit, train, and equip wildlife scouts. As a result, AWF can ensure enhanced protection of wildlife in these regions, like the Osupuko and Kitome Conservancies in Kenya, as well as provide additional employment opportunities to local communities.

    You will still be charged in your native currency. Search this site. Wildlife Gallery. Economic Development Government Engagement. Spread the word. Conservation Status: Vulnerable. Quick Facts Listen to the sound of the elephant. Weight 2, to 6, kilograms about 2 to 7 tons. Elephant Habitat Open and closed savanna, grasslands, and arid deserts.

    Predators Humans and occasionally lions or hyenas.

    How ethical is the elephant ‘sanctuary' you're visiting?

    Where do elephants live? What is the African bush elephant? Elephants have a very long nose, which also doubles as an arm. They spend a lot of time eating.

    Facts About Elephants | Types of Elephants | DK Find Out

    Elephants are friendly. Challenges Elephant poaching and demand for ivory are driving this mammal toward extinction. Solutions Our solutions to protecting and conserving this iconic African species: Give them room to roam. Empower community members to protect the elephant. Raising awareness to end ivory demand. Join Now Spread the word.