Creature Feature: Elephants!

            Elephants are the largest land mammals. While the Asian elephant is the smaller of the two species, they still weigh a hefty 2.25-5.5 tons and stand 6.6-9.8 ft. tall at their shoulders. On the other hand, African elephants, the larger species weigh from 2.5 tons to 7 tons and are 8.2-13 ft. at their shoulders. One of the most obvious ways (besides size) to tell apart Asian and African elephants is by their ears. Asian elephants have relatively small round ears while African elephants have larger ears that tend to resemble the shape of the continent of Africa. An elephant’s ears radiate heat away from their bodies to help keep them cool. Sometimes this dispersal of heat is not enough. When this happens elephant can be found relaxing in water and showering themselves with water they sucked into their trunks.


You might not know it, but an elephant’s trunk is actually a long nose. While it is a nose, an elephant’s trunk is used for much more than just breathing though. Asian elephant trunks contain a small, fingerlike part on the tip; African elephant trunks have two. These fingerlike features are used to pick up small objects. Elephants are herbivores and eat up to 300 pounds of food a day. Since they must eat so much, they don’t sleep very often and walk great distances to find enough food.


            Elephant tusks are made of ivory. Because of this they are often hunted for their tusks as ivory can be sold at high prices. Illegal hunting, called poaching, has caused many species to become endangered and in some cases, even extinct. Asian elephants are on the endangered species list. This is due partially to poaching and partially to habitat loss. Poaching is a vast problem for many species including elephants.


To learn more about Asian elephants visit

To learn more about African elephants visit

If you’d like to see elephants in all of their glory, the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in Colorado Springs has African elephants in their “Encounter Africa” area and the Denver Zoo has Asian elephants in their “Toyota Elephant Passage” area.