African elephant, Member of the big Fives.
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African elephant, member of the big Fives- Wildlife safaris through Uganda, Rwanda, Kenya and Tanzania.

African elephant. member of the big Fives- Elephants are the largest land mammals on earth. They have distinctly massive bodies, large ears, long trunks. Globally, there are two elephant families and that’s the Asian elephants family and the African elephants, Uganda and most east African countries house only the African elephants. In Uganda, they can be found in, Queen Elizabeth National Park, Kidepo Valley National Park and in Murchison Falls National Park. African elephants look somehow different from Asian elephants according to their physical appearance. They have concave backs, large ears, large ear flaps, long trunks, long tusks, massive legs and tough but sensitive skin. The trunk is called proboscis and it is used for breathing, taking food to the mouth and grasping objects. Their tusks are derived from incisor teeth and they serve as weapon and as tools for moving and digging. The large ear flaps assist in maintaining a constant body temperature as well as in communicating. The pillar like legs support and carry their heavy weight.

The African elephant is the largest of all elephant species and weighs up to 8tons. Two genetically different African subspecies exist, the savannah and the forest elephants with a number of characteristics that differentiate them both.  Elephant tusks serve many purposes like they are used to protect the elephant’s trunk, lift and move objects, gather food and strip bark from trees, they can also be used for defense. During times of drought, elephants even use their tusks to dig holes to find water underground.

African elephant


The courtship of elephants is short lived; the male and female elephants rub their bodies on each other and wrap their trunks. The female tends to run away from the males and he will tend to seduce her and this takes sometime before they actually mate. The male elephants tend to fan their ears more when they are ready to mate than at other times. This allows them to get their scent out there at wider distance than before and attract females.

There’s plenty of aggression among males for rights to mate. The younger ones though are usually no match for the strength of the older elephants which is why they don’t get to mate until they are much older. This is a fact though that tends to make it harder to increase the number of elephants out there. The males rarely hurt each other physically when they are fighting for the right to mate. Most of the time the younger males will back away from the older ones. There’s plenty of speculation that this isn’t out of fear but out of respect and admiration for elders. However, there has been a documented case of male elephants engaging in sexual activities on each other due to their urge to reproduce but not being able to do so for a lack of available females to them. Elephants hold the record of the longest duration of time for conception to when the offspring is born. This period is 22months, the young elephants are extremely cute with their long ears and long tails. You may not realize it, but they are blind when they are born. They are well cared for within the herd of elephants. Their own mother as well as the other females will ensure that the baby is well protected. The babies often allow right behind their mothers when the herd is on the move. To ensure they stay where they should keep their trunk wrapped around her tail. Other females that don’t have babies will care for the young as if they were their own. This is done so as the mothers can feed like they need to in order to produce enough milk for the young ones.

African Elephants can drink up to 10 gallons of milk every day. It is believed that the off springs of elephants don’t have the same high level of instincts for survival as other animals. That is why they are so reliant upon their mothers and other females in the herd. They are faster learners though, and pick up new skills through observation all the time. They are praised for doing well and can be scolded when they don’t perform well. There has been an attempt to create to create hybrid off spring between species of elephants in captivity. Most experts believe that with elephant’s numbers so low we need to focus on successful breeding programs and not experimentations. Elephants mature later than many other animals. Females reach sexual maturity at 10-12years of age, males at around 25years. A male doesn’t generally start breeding until the age of 30 when it has reached a sufficient weight and size to compete with other breeding males, at a point, it will start to seek out females in estrus.


Elephant breeding seasons

Males enter a state called musth once a year and older bulls tend to stay in musth longer than younger bulls up to 6months. During this period, they have increased levels of testosterone, they secrete a fluid from their temporal gland between the eye and the ear will actively seek a mate. Dominant males, which are older, tend to come into musth when a larger number of females are in estrus, and males exhibit physical behaviors such as flapping their ears and rubbing their heads on trees and bushes to disperse the musth scent. They also have a particular rumble, a low frequency vocal call used to attract females who are ready to mate.


Females sometimes respond with their own call indicating interest, while a cow can mate with any male, those in musth maybe more attractive to females in estrus. When a male approaches a female in estrus may first show wariness, but if interested she will leave the family group, walking with her head up and turned sideways to watch with the male as he follows behind. The male may chase the female if she retreats and will chase off any other males. Elephants may stroke each other with their trunks before the male mounts the female from behind, standing almost vertically as they mate. Elephants sex last for up to 2mins and afterward, he will stay near the female and guard her from other males. Females may mate with more than one bull in each estrus cycle, which lasts up to 18weeks, they don’t mate for life, a female may repeatedly choose to mate with the same bull and bulls are sometimes seen being protective of females.

True African elephant adventures can be under taken in all the countries in the east African region including Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania and Kenya.

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