ETYM Old Eng. elefaunt, olifant, Old Fren. olifant, French éléphant, Latin elephantus, elephas, -antis, from Greek elefas, -phantos.
1. Five-toed pachyderm.
2. The symbol of the Republican Party; introduced in cartoons by Thomas Nast in 1874.
Mammal belonging to either of two surviving species of the order Proboscidea: the Asian elephant Elephas maximus and the African elephant Loxodonta africana. Elephants can grow to 4 m/13 ft and weigh up to 8 metric tons; they have a thick, gray, wrinkled skin, a large head, a long, flexible, prehensile trunk, used to obtain food and water, and upper incisors or tusks, which grow to a considerable length. The African elephant has very large ears and a flattened forehead, and the Asian species has smaller ears and a convex forehead. In India, Myanmar (Burma), and Thailand, Asiatic elephants are widely used for transport and logging.
Elephants are herbivorous, highly intelligent, and extremely social, living in matriarchal herds. The period of gestation is about 19–22 months (the longest among mammals), and the life span is about 60–70 years. Elephants have one of the lowest metabolic rates among placental mammals. Their tusks, which are initially tipped with enamel but later consist entirely of ivory, continue growing throughout life. They are preceded by milk tusks, which are shed at an early age.
Elephants are slaughtered needlessly for the ivory of their tusks, and this, coupled with the fact that they reproduce slowly and do not breed readily in captivity, is leading to their extinction. In Africa, overhunting caused numbers to collapse during the 1980s and the elephant population of E Africa is threatened with extinction. There were 1.3 million African elephants in 1981; fewer than 700,000 in 1988; and about 600,000 in 1990. They were placed on the CITES list of most endangered species in 1989. A world ban on trade in ivory was imposed 1990, resulting in an apparent drop in poaching, but it is not yet certain what long-term effects the ban will have.
There are between 30,000 and 50,000 Asian elephants, and of these 10,000 are working elephants. Most working elephants are caught from the wild and “tamed” by starvation and brutality.
Young Asian elephants are hairy, and in this respect somewhat resemble the extinct mammoth genus; the adults have smooth, nearly naked skin. The African species is of fiercer disposition and has the ability to move rapidly over rough ground.
Veliki surlaš, najveći kopneni sisar.
Slon dnevno može da pojede i do 225 kilograma hrane biljnog porekla. Najkarakterističnija je slonova surla koja je u stvari produženi nos i gornja usna. Ona je zadužena za disanje, skidanje grančica sa drveća, čupanje trave, otkidanje voća i unosa hrane u usta. Surla se takođe koristi za miris, dodir, piće, pozdravljaenj, bacanje prašine ili za kupanje. Slonovi surlom mogu da usisaju i do 11.5 litara vode koju ubacuju u usta ili koji im služi za tuširanje po leđima. Mogu da se oglašavaju na više načina - ispuštaju zvukove nalik fijukanju, zviždanju, trubljenju, a imaju i sposobnost da proizvode niskofrekventne zvukove koje ljudsko uho ne može da čuje, a omogućava im da komuniciraju sa ostalim krdima koja mogu da budu udaljena miljama. Prosečni vek ove životinje je oko sedamdeset godina. Slon živi vrlo organizovano. Ženke žive u grupama sa svojim mladuncima, dok im se mužjaci pridružuju samo za vreme parenja.
Slonova kost, belokost.