This mammal has very strong social bonds and lives in family groups headed by a female (called a cow). Males (called bulls) occasionally join the group. Elephants are excellent swimmers. Elephants have few natural enemies except man, and they are in extreme danger of extinction due to loss of habitat and poaching (they are killed for their ivory tusks).
Anatomy: Asian Elephants average about 8 feet (2.5 m) tall at the shoulder (smaller than African Elephants). Males weigh up to 6 tons (5,400 kg); females average about 4 tons (3,600 kg). Only males have tusks (large, pointed ivory teeth). They have wrinkled, gray-brown skin that is almost hairless. The ears not only hear well, but also help the elephant lose excess heat, as hot blood flows near the surface.
Trunk: Elephants breathe through two nostrils at the end of their trunk, which is an extension of the nose. The trunk is also used to get water and food. To get water, the elephant sucks water into the trunk, then curls the trunk towards the mouth and squirts the water into it. The trunk has a prehensile (grasping) extension at the tip, which it uses like a finger or scoop.
Diet: Elephants eat roots, grasses, leaves, bark, bananas and sugar cane. Working bulls can eat up to 300-600 pounds (130-260 kg) of food each day.
Classification: Kingdom Animalia (animals), Phylum Chordata, Class Mammallia (mammals), Order Proboscidea, Family Elephantidae, Genus Elephas, Species E. maximus.
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