Elephant reproduction

REPRODUCTION The male’s penis is encased in a sheath but is released for urinating and mating – and the huge size leads to it often being referred to as a ‘fifth leg’! The female’s vaginal opening is located between her hind limbs, not under the tail as in many species. Her mammary glands are located […]


Group of elephants

COMMUNICATION Elephants are extremely intelligent. They are able to adapt to new conditions, react to human interference and human presence. The high level of intelligence can also be seen in the degree of social interaction and contact you see between individuals, the subtle nature of their communication and the generally close-knit structure of the elephant […]


Elephant diet

DIET Elephants are herbivorous, eating roots, grasses, leaves, fruit, and bark. Because of their huge size and low digestibility of the food they eat, elephants spend most of their time eating – up to 75 % of their day. Bulls can eat up to 130-260 kg of food each day, depending on their size and […]

Social Behaviour

Elephant Social Behaviour

SOCIAL BEHAVIOUR Elephants live in female family groups (8-10 animals), which are made up of the matriarch (usually the oldest female), related females and their offspring. The matriarch is responsible for the safety of the herd and for finding enough food and water, based on many years of past experience and knowledge. The males stay […]

The Organ of Jacobson

Elephant Herd

THE ORGAN OF JACOBSON The organ of Jacobson or vomeronasal gland is an almost forgotten body part. It is a sense organ with the ability to detect chemical signals. In humans, the external evidence consists of a pair of tiny pits, one on either side of the nasal septum, approximately 3mm above the nostril. In […]

Teeth & Tusks

Elephant Skull

THE TEETH & TUSKS Elephants are best known by many people in the world for their teeth. It is because of the human lust for ivory that thousands of elephants are being slaughtered for their teeth. Ivory is really only dentine and is no different from ordinary teeth. It is the diamond-shaped pattern of the […]

Trunk & Respiratory System

Elephant Trunk & Respiratory System

THE TRUNK The trunk is formed by a combination of the nose, upper lip and certain facial muscles. There are no bones in the trunk. The two nostril tubes are surrounded by approximately 60 000 muscle ‘units’, divided into 6 major muscle groups, which are responsible for the dexterity and fine movement of the trunk, […]

Legs, Feet & Skin

Elephant Foot

THE LEGS & FEET An elephant’s legs are great straight pillars, in order to support its bulk. These straight legs mean that less muscular power is required to stand; and an elephant may stand for long periods of time without tiring. Most people are very surprised as to how silently an elephant can move through […]

Brain, Eyes & Ears

Close-up of elephant eye

THE BRAIN The brain can weigh 4.5 – 5 kg – larger than any other land mammal and only twice smaller than the brain of whales, which weigh 20 x more than elephants. A wide variety of behaviour, including grief, play, use of tools, compassion, self-awareness and the best memory in the entire animal kingdom […]

Skeleton & Skull

Elephant Skeleton & Skull

THE SKELETON The skeleton of the elephant has been greatly influenced by the tremendous mass it must support. Incredibly, it weighs about 16.5 % of the total weight (A cow’s skeleton only weighs about 10 % of total weight). The backbone is the mechanism by which soft tissues are ‘hung’, consisting of sturdy vertebrae with […]