The elephant is the earth's largest land animal. Asian (also known as Indian) elephants are found in Southeast Asia, and can be distinguished by their arched back which is slightly taller than their shoulders or rump. African elephants (which live in Africa, south of the Sahara desert) are the largest. The heaviest elephant ever weighed, an African bull, was more than 14,500 pounds. The remainder of our cyber-tour will be conducted on elephant back.
The Savannah Elephant Voices Project studies elephant communication in Kenya's Amboseli National Park. Elephants are large-brained animals with complex communication skills that include hearing, smell, vision and touch. For high school and college students the site is chock full of terrific resources for research reports, especially in FAQ Elephant Communication, and the Elephant Communication Quiz. Middle schoolers will find quick stats in Elephant Facts. "Ele-phant = arch great."
For the past twenty-five years, Cynthia Moss has been studying elephant families in Kenya. Amboseli National Park. This PBS special follows Echo, the matriarch of an extended family of fifteen African elephants. Her clan consists of her own offspring, and other adult females with young calves. The fathers are loners, and do not travel with the clan until it's time to mate. The page on Elephant Communication is fascinating. "They are a touchy-feely bunch: mothers gently trunk-slap youngsters to discipline them, infants beg for milk by touching a mother's legs, and all entwine trunks in greeting."
"Asian elephants are endangered in the wild, where perhaps only about 30,000 still live in forests of south and southeast Asia. They are endangered in North American zoos, too. That's why the 2001 birth of Kandula, the result of artificial insemination, was such a triumph." Cams and photo galleries are the highlight of this National Zoo site. Scroll down the page for links to Elephant Enigma ("How do you get a four-ton animal to open up and say, 'Ahhh'?) and savannah (or African) elephants.
"With the two finger-like points on the end of its trunk, an African elephant can pick up fruit the size of a marble -- or a branch a foot thick. This elongated proboscis is an incredibly versatile tool: it provides a means for smelling, breathing, and touching, not to mention drinking and eating." Visit this five-star PBS site to read Life of an Elephant, Tale of the Trunk, or The Poaching Problem. They also host a good hotlist of elephant game reserves and conservation projects.
Built especially for elementary and middle-school students, this Animal Bytes site is my elephant pick of the day. Great resource for fast facts, video clips, photo gallery, and audio clips. Hotlinks are not underlined, but rather are in red . Follow any of them for a pop-up definition or for more details. "An elephant's skin is so sensitive that it can feel a fly landing on it."