Elephant Kingdom - The Search for the Giant Sun Throwing Elephant
Some DNA studies suggest Mammuthus is more closely related to the former   while others point to the latter. Several species of proboscideans lived on islands and experienced insular dwarfism. This occurred primarily during the Pleistocene when some elephant populations became isolated by fluctuating sea levels, although dwarf elephants did exist earlier in the Pliocene. These elephants likely grew smaller on islands due to a lack of large or viable predator populations and limited resources. By contrast, small mammals such as rodents develop gigantism in these conditions.
Dwarf proboscideans are known to have lived in Indonesia , the Channel Islands of California , and several islands of the Mediterranean. Elephas celebensis of Sulawesi is believed to have descended from Elephas planifrons. Other descendants of the straight-tusked elephant existed in Cyprus. Dwarf elephants of uncertain descent lived in Crete , Cyclades , and Dodecanese while dwarf mammoths are known to have lived in Sardinia.
This species reached a height of 1. Elephants are the largest living terrestrial animals. The average male African bush elephant is 3. Asian elephants are smaller, with males being 2. African forest elephants are the smallest extant species, on average being 2. African elephants have 21 pairs of ribs, while Asian elephants have 19 or 20 pairs. An elephant's skull is resilient enough to withstand the forces generated by the leverage of the tusks and head-to-head collisions. The back of the skull is flattened and spread out, creating arches that protect the brain in every direction.
These cavities give the inside of the skull a honeycomb -like appearance. The cranium is particularly large and provides enough room for the attachment of muscles to support the entire head. The lower jaw is solid and heavy. A durable nictitating membrane protects the eye globe.
The animal's field of vision is compromised by the location and limited mobility of the eyes. Like all mammals, an elephant can raise or lower its temperature a few degrees from the average in response to extreme environmental conditions. Elephant ears have thick bases with thin tips. The ear flaps, or pinnae , contain numerous blood vessels called capillaries. Warm blood flows into the capillaries, helping to release excess body heat into the environment.
This occurs when the pinnae are still, and the animal can enhance the effect by flapping them. Larger ear surfaces contain more capillaries, and more heat can be released. Of all the elephants, African bush elephants live in the hottest climates, and have the largest ear flaps. The trunk, or proboscis , is a fusion of the nose and upper lip, although in early fetal life, the upper lip and trunk are separated. It contains up to , separate muscle fascicles , with no bone and little fat. These paired muscles consist of two major types: The former are divided into dorsals, ventrals , and laterals while the latter are divided into transverse and radiating muscles.
The muscles of the trunk connect to a bony opening in the skull. The nasal septum is composed of tiny muscle units that stretch horizontally between the nostrils. Cartilage divides the nostrils at the base. The muscles work both with and against each other. A unique proboscis nerve — formed by the maxillary and facial nerves — runs along both sides of the trunk. Elephant trunks have multiple functions, including breathing, olfaction , touching, grasping, and sound production.
The African elephant has two finger-like extensions at the tip of the trunk that allow it to grasp and bring food to its mouth. The Asian elephant has only one, and relies more on wrapping around a food item and squeezing it into its mouth. One elephant has been observed to graze by kneeling on its front legs, raising on its hind legs and taking in grass with its lips. Elephants usually have 26 teeth: Unlike most mammals, which grow baby teeth and then replace them with a single permanent set of adult teeth, elephants are polyphyodonts that have cycles of tooth rotation throughout their lives.
The chewing teeth are replaced six times in a typical elephant's lifetime. Teeth are not replaced by new ones emerging from the jaws vertically as in most mammals. Instead, new teeth grow in at the back of the mouth and move forward to push out the old ones. The first chewing tooth on each side of the jaw falls out when the elephant is two to three years old.
The second set of chewing teeth falls out at four to six years old. The third set falls out at 9—15 years of age, and set four lasts until 18—28 years of age. The fifth set of teeth falls out at the early 40s. The sixth and usually final set must last the elephant the rest of its life. Elephant teeth have loop-shaped dental ridges, which are thicker and more diamond-shaped in African elephants. The tusks of an elephant are modified second incisors in the upper jaw. A newly developed tusk has a smooth enamel cap that eventually wears off.
The dentine is known as ivory and its cross-section consists of crisscrossing line patterns, known as "engine turning", which create diamond-shaped areas. As a piece of living tissue, a tusk is relatively soft; it is as hard as the mineral calcite. Much of the tusk can be seen outside; the rest is in a socket in the skull. At least one-third of the tusk contains the pulp and some have nerves stretching to the tip. Thus it would be difficult to remove it without harming the animal.
When removed, ivory begins to dry up and crack if not kept cool and moist. Tusks serve multiple purposes. They are used for digging for water, salt, and roots; debarking or marking trees; and for moving trees and branches when clearing a path. When fighting, they are used to attack and defend, and to protect the trunk. Like humans, who are typically right- or left-handed , elephants are usually right- or left-tusked.
The dominant tusk, called the master tusk, is generally more worn down, as it is shorter with a rounder tip. In the Asian species, only the males have large tusks. Female Asians have very small tusks, or none at all. Hunting for elephant ivory in Africa  and Asia  has led to natural selection for shorter tusks   and tusklessness. An elephant's skin is generally very tough, at 2. The skin around the mouth, anus , and inside of the ear is considerably thinner.
Elephants typically have grey skin, but African elephants look brown or reddish after wallowing in coloured mud. Asian elephants have some patches of depigmentation, particularly on the forehead and ears and the areas around them. Calves have brownish or reddish hair, especially on the head and back. As elephants mature, their hair darkens and becomes sparser, but dense concentrations of hair and bristles remain on the end of the tail as well as the chin, genitals and the areas around the eyes and ear openings. Normally the skin of an Asian elephant is covered with more hair than its African counterpart.
An elephant uses mud as a sunscreen, protecting its skin from ultraviolet light. Although tough, an elephant's skin is very sensitive. Without regular mud baths to protect it from burning, insect bites and moisture loss, an elephant's skin suffers serious damage. After bathing, the elephant will usually use its trunk to blow dust onto its body and this dries into a protective crust. Elephants have difficulty releasing heat through the skin because of their low surface-area-to-volume ratio , which is many times smaller than that of a human.
They have even been observed lifting up their legs, presumably in an effort to expose their soles to the air. To support the animal's weight, an elephant's limbs are positioned more vertically under the body than in most other mammals. The long bones of the limbs have cancellous bone in place of medullary cavities. This strengthens the bones while still allowing haematopoiesis. Elephants are incapable of rotating their front legs, as the ulna and radius are fixed in pronation ; the "palm" of the manus faces backward.
Elephants can move both forwards and backwards, but cannot trot , jump , or gallop. They use only two gaits when moving on land: With no "aerial phase", the fast gait does not meet all the criteria of running, although the elephant uses its legs much like other running animals, with the hips and shoulders falling and then rising while the feet are on the ground.
Spring-like kinetics could explain the difference between the motion of elephants and other animals. The brain of an elephant weighs 4. While the elephant brain is larger overall, it is proportionally smaller. The cerebrum and cerebellum are well developed, and the temporal lobes are so large that they bulge out laterally.
It has a double-pointed apex , an unusual trait among mammals. Unlike many other animals, the heart rate speeds up by 8 to 10 beats per minute when the elephant is lying down. This may allow the animal to deal with the pressure differences when its body is underwater and its trunk is breaking the surface for air,  although this explanation has been questioned.
The majority of an elephant's food intake goes undigested despite the process lasting up to a day. A male elephant's testes are located internally near the kidneys. It is S-shaped when fully erect and has a Y-shaped orifice. The vulva is located between the hind legs instead of near the tail as in most mammals.
Determining pregnancy status can be difficult due to the animal's large abdominal cavity. The female's mammary glands occupy the space between the front legs, which puts the suckling calf within reach of the female's trunk. This organ is associated with sexual behaviour, and males secrete a fluid from it when in musth. The African bush elephant can be found in habitats as diverse as dry savannahs , deserts , marshes , and lake shores, and in elevations from sea level to mountain areas above the snow line.
Forest elephants mainly live in equatorial forests but will enter gallery forests and ecotones between forests and savannahs. Elephants tend to stay near water sources. At midday, elephants rest under trees and may doze off while standing. Sleeping occurs at night while the animal is lying down. Because of their large size, elephants have a huge impact on their environments and are considered keystone species. Their habit of uprooting trees and undergrowth can transform savannah into grasslands; when they dig for water during drought, they create waterholes that can be used by other animals.
They can enlarge waterholes when they bathe and wallow in them. At Mount Elgon , elephants excavate caves that are used by ungulates , hyraxes, bats, birds and insects. The seeds are typically dispersed in large amounts over great distances. This ecological niche cannot be filled by the next largest herbivore, the tapir.
At Murchison Falls National Park in Uganda, the overabundance of elephants has threatened several species of small birds that depend on woodlands. Their weight can compact the soil, which causes the rain to run off , leading to erosion. Elephants typically coexist peacefully with other herbivores, which will usually stay out of their way. Some aggressive interactions between elephants and rhinoceros have been recorded.
At Aberdare National Park , Kenya, a rhino attacked an elephant calf and was killed by the other elephants in the group. This is due to lower predation pressures that would otherwise kill off many of the individuals with significant parasite loads. Female elephants spend their entire lives in tight-knit matrilineal family groups, some of which are made up of more than ten members, including three pairs of mothers with offspring, and are led by the matriarch which is often the eldest female. The social circle of the female elephant does not necessarily end with the small family unit.
In the case of elephants in Amboseli National Park , Kenya, a female's life involves interaction with other families, clans, and subpopulations. Families may associate and bond with each other, forming what are known as bond groups. These are typically made of two family groups,  which may be closely related due to previously being part of the same family group which split after becoming too large for the available resources.
Groups within these clans do not form strong bonds, but they defend their dry-season ranges against other clans. There are typically nine groups in a clan. The Amboseli elephant population is further divided into the "central" and "peripheral" subpopulations. Some elephant populations in India and Sri Lanka have similar basic social organisations. There appear to be cohesive family units and loose aggregations.
They have been observed to have "nursing units" and "juvenile-care units". In southern India, elephant populations may contain family groups, bond groups and possibly clans. Family groups tend to be small, consisting of one or two adult females and their offspring. A group containing more than two adult females plus offspring is known as a "joint family". Malay elephant populations have even smaller family units, and do not have any social organisation higher than a family or bond group.
Groups of African forest elephants typically consist of one adult female with one to three offspring. These groups appear to interact with each other, especially at forest clearings. The social life of the adult male is very different. As he matures, a male spends more time at the edge of his group and associates with outside males or even other families. When males permanently leave, they either live alone or with other males. The former is typical of bulls in dense forests. Asian males are usually solitary, but occasionally form groups of two or more individuals; the largest consisted of seven bulls.
Larger bull groups consisting of over 10 members occur only among African bush elephants, the largest of which numbered up to individuals. Dominance depends on the age, size and sexual condition,  and when in groups, males follow the lead of the dominant bull. Young bulls may seek out the company and leadership of older, more experienced males,  whose presence appears to control their aggression and prevent them from exhibiting "deviant" behaviour. Bulls associate with family groups if an oestrous cow is present.
Adult males enter a state of increased testosterone known as musth. In a population in southern India, males first enter musth at the age of 15, but it is not very intense until they are older than At Amboseli, bulls under 24 do not go into musth, while half of those aged 25—35 and all those over 35 do. Young bulls appear to enter musth during the dry season January—May , while older bulls go through it during the wet season June—December.
The main characteristic of a bull's musth is a fluid secreted from the temporal gland that runs down the side of his face. He may urinate with his penis still in his sheath , which causes the urine to spray on his hind legs. Behaviours associated with musth include walking with the head held high and swinging, picking at the ground with the tusks, marking, rumbling and waving only one ear at a time. This can last from a day to four months.
Males become extremely aggressive during musth. Size is the determining factor in agonistic encounters when the individuals have the same condition. In contests between musth and non-musth individuals, musth bulls win the majority of the time, even when the non-musth bull is larger. A male may stop showing signs of musth when he encounters a musth male of higher rank. Those of equal rank tend to avoid each other.
Agonistic encounters typically consist of threat displays, chases, and minor sparring with the tusks. Serious fights are rare. Elephants are polygynous breeders,  and copulations are most frequent during the peak of the wet season. A bull will follow a potential mate and assess her condition with the flehmen response , which requires the male to collect a chemical sample with his trunk and bring it to the vomeronasal organ.
While most mammals have one surge of luteinizing hormone during the follicular phase, elephants have two. The first or anovulatory surge, could signal to males that the female is in oestrus by changing her scent, but ovulation does not occur until the second or ovulatory surge. Bulls engage in a behaviour known as mate-guarding, where they follow oestrous females and defend them from other males.
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Copulation lasts about 45 seconds and does not involve pelvic thrusting or ejaculatory pause. By comparison, human sperm has to swim around only Homosexual behaviour is frequent in both sexes. As in heterosexual interactions, this involves mounting. Male elephants sometimes stimulate each other by playfighting and "championships" may form between old bulls and younger males. Female same-sex behaviours have been documented only in captivity where they are known to masturbate one another with their trunks. Gestation in elephants typically lasts around two years with interbirth intervals usually lasting four to five years.
Births tend to take place during the wet season. Adults and most of the other young will gather around the newborn, touching and caressing it with their trunks.
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For the first few days, the mother is intolerant of other herd members near her young. Alloparenting — where a calf is cared for by someone other than its mother — takes place in some family groups. Allomothers are typically two to twelve years old. For the first few days, the newborn is unsteady on its feet, and needs the support of its mother. It relies on touch, smell, and hearing, as its eyesight is poor. It has little precise control over its trunk, which wiggles around and may cause it to trip.
By its second week of life, the calf can walk more firmly and has more control over its trunk. After its first month, a calf can pick up, hold, and put objects in its mouth, but cannot suck water through the trunk and must drink directly through the mouth. It is still dependent on its mother and keeps close to her. For its first three months, a calf relies entirely on milk from its mother for nutrition, after which it begins to forage for vegetation and can use its trunk to collect water. At the same time, improvements in lip and leg coordination occur. Calves continue to suckle at the same rate as before until their sixth month, after which they become more independent when feeding.
By nine months, mouth, trunk and foot coordination is perfected. After a year, a calf's abilities to groom, drink, and feed itself are fully developed. It still needs its mother for nutrition and protection from predators for at least another year. Suckling after two years may serve to maintain growth rate, body condition and reproductive ability.
Play behaviour in calves differs between the sexes; females run or chase each other while males play-fight. The former are sexually mature by the age of nine years  while the latter become mature around 14—15 years. Touching is an important form of communication among elephants. Individuals greet each other by stroking or wrapping their trunks; the latter also occurs during mild competition.
Older elephants use trunk-slaps, kicks, and shoves to discipline younger ones. Individuals of any age and sex will touch each other's mouths, temporal glands, and genitals, particularly during meetings or when excited. This allows individuals to pick up chemical cues. Touching is especially important for mother—calf communication. When moving, elephant mothers will touch their calves with their trunks or feet when side-by-side or with their tails if the calf is behind them.
If a calf wants to rest, it will press against its mother's front legs and when it wants to suckle, it will touch her breast or leg. Visual displays mostly occur in agonistic situations. Elephants will try to appear more threatening by raising their heads and spreading their ears. They may add to the display by shaking their heads and snapping their ears, as well as throwing dust and vegetation. They are usually bluffing when performing these actions. Excited elephants may raise their trunks. Submissive ones will lower their heads and trunks, as well as flatten their ears against their necks, while those that accept a challenge will position their ears in a V shape.
Elephants produce several sounds, usually through the larynx , though some may be modified by the trunk. Trumpeting is made during excitement, distress or aggression. At Amboseli, several different infrasonic calls have been identified. A greeting rumble is emitted by members of a family group after having been separated for several hours. Contact calls are soft, unmodulated sounds made by individuals that have been separated from their group and may be responded to with a "contact answer" call that starts out loud, but becomes softer. A "let's go" soft rumble is emitted by the matriarch to signal to the other herd members that it is time to move to another spot.
Bulls in musth emit a distinctive, low-frequency pulsated rumble nicknamed the "motorcycle". Musth rumbles may be answered by the "female chorus", a low-frequency, modulated chorus produced by several cows. A loud postcopulatory call may be made by an oestrous cow after mating.
When a cow has mated, her family may produce calls of excitement known as the "mating pandemonium". Elephants are known to communicate with seismics , vibrations produced by impacts on the earth's surface or acoustical waves that travel through it. They appear to rely on their leg and shoulder bones to transmit the signals to the middle ear. When detecting seismic signals, the animals lean forward and put more weight on their larger front feet; this is known as the "freezing behaviour". Elephants possess several adaptations suited for seismic communication. The cushion pads of the feet contain cartilaginous nodes and have similarities to the acoustic fat found in marine mammals like toothed whales and sirenians.
A unique sphincter -like muscle around the ear canal constricts the passageway, thereby dampening acoustic signals and allowing the animal to hear more seismic signals. An individual running or mock charging can create seismic signals that can be heard at great distances. Elephants exhibit mirror self-recognition , an indication of self-awareness and cognition that has also been demonstrated in some apes and dolphins. This individual was even able to score a high accuracy rating when re-tested with the same visual pairs a year later.
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An Asian elephant has been observed modifying branches and using them as flyswatters. Elephants are popularly thought of as having an excellent memory. This could have a factual basis; they possibly have cognitive maps to allow them to remember large-scale spaces over long periods of time. Individuals appear to be able to keep track of the current location of their family members. Scientists debate the extent to which elephants feel emotion.
They appear to show interest in the bones of their own kind, regardless of whether they are related. This has been interpreted as expressing "concern";  however, others would dispute such an interpretation as being anthropomorphic ;   the Oxford Companion to Animal Behaviour advised that "one is well advised to study the behaviour rather than attempting to get at any underlying emotion". African elephants were listed as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature IUCN in , with no independent assessment of the conservation status of the two forms.
By , the population was estimated to be ,; with , in Central Africa, , in eastern Africa , , in southern Africa , and 19, in western Africa. About , elephants were estimated to live in the rainforests, fewer than had previously been thought. Population trends in southern Africa were mixed, with anecdotal reports of losses in Zambia , Mozambique and Angola while populations grew in Botswana and Zimbabwe and were stable in South Africa.
The IUCN estimates a total of around , individuals for Successful conservation efforts in certain areas have led to high population densities. As of , local numbers were controlled by contraception or translocation. Large-scale cullings ceased in , when Zimbabwe abandoned the practice.
Appendix II status which allows restricted trade was given to elephants in Botswana, Namibia, and Zimbabwe in and South Africa in The event was conducted to raise awareness of the value of elephants and rhinos, to help mitigate human-elephant conflicts, and to promote anti-poaching activities. It is now extinct in these areas,  and the current range of Asian elephants is highly fragmented. It is likely that around half of the population is in India.
Although Asian elephants are declining in numbers overall, particularly in Southeast Asia, the population in the Western Ghats appears to be increasing. The poaching of elephants for their ivory, meat and hides has been one of the major threats to their existence. Following the bans, unemployment rose in India and China, where the ivory industry was important economically. By contrast, Japan and Hong Kong, which were also part of the industry, were able to adapt and were not badly affected.
The ban allowed the elephant to recover in parts of Africa. Still, members of the species have been killed for their ivory in some areas, such as Periyar National Park in India. Other threats to elephants include habitat destruction and fragmentation. Because they need larger amounts of land than other sympatric terrestrial mammals, they are the first to be affected by human encroachment. In extreme cases, elephants may be confined to small islands of forest among human-dominated landscapes.
Elephants cannot coexist with humans in agricultural areas due to their size and food requirements. Elephants commonly trample and consume crops, which contributes to conflicts with humans, and both elephants and humans have died by the hundreds as a result. Mitigating these conflicts is important for conservation. Elephants have been working animals since at least the Indus Valley Civilization  and continue to be used in modern times.
There were 13,—16, working elephants employed in Asia in These animals are typically captured from the wild when they are 10—20 years old when they can be trained quickly and easily, and will have a longer working life. While in India, Karl had received notice that Max had taken ill, and was on the next flight to Thailand.
He arrived that afternoon, and the next morning Max passed away. At that moment he decided. That work is already underway and will hopefully appear here within the next 12 months. Until then, I hope you enjoy the 3 books on offer and the regular posts from amongst the elephants and dogs of Thailand. If you would like to know more, please feel free to contact Karl by email at kcullen75 gmail. What a beautiful story, for a man to delicate his whole life, to such.
Amazing, intelligent, wonderful, animals, I have only had a brief encounter with a couple of elephants in thailand. I wish thad I could do it again. He was so young! Thank you Karl for all you did for elephants, your books and deep care. Your passing at 38 is a tragedy and you will be missed by Elephants and those who love them, both. Jude on May 26, at 6: So very sorry to hear this sad news.
Such a gifted and insightful writer and an innately good soul who did amazing things in such a tragically short life. I hope you are reunited with your beloved Max and Kane. He was such a wonderful soul. I loved watching him with Max at ENP and I like to visualize that they are now in each others company where ever that might be.
I have no issue with you using any of my points from my blog. Your words were so true and hopefully that will be in the future for the park. Thanks for allowing us to join your lunch and dinner conversation, all the best Tegan. Nothing to apologise for Tegan. Thanks for ordering my book, I hope you really enjoy it, but sorry it will take so long. Wow, amazing work and passion you have and hope you never give it up.
I recently was at the ENP with power of one and to be able to experience a little of your life there has really opened up my heart even more and got me falling in love with them. I have shared the elephants stories and pictures with all the kids in South Africa Botshabelo and they all giggle in delight and guess understand the elephants hearts. Keep inspiring and look forward to your posts. I am happy that you are back at the Park.
I will be at the Park after Thanksgiving. I will bring my little movie which I dedicated to Max. I hope I can show it to you. Chang Yim was born shortly after I left so I have yet to meet him. BTW — I love the newest book!! Please add me too please! Good that you are going back to ENP, keep up the good work!!! Wonderful to be able to read what you have to share. Warm Rumbles — Elke. Elke Riesterer on September 24, at 3: Give us some news! Congrats for your books. Will definetely try to find them. All my best wishes. It was great to read your blog Karl. For my family and I to spend time with the elephants, you, Michelle.
My kids still talk about it and that was 4 years ago. Ii love following what you are doing. Rarely do I see people following their passion in life — but you certainly have!