African Elephant (Loxodonta africana)
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These are the largest of all Uganda’s new BIG five animals. A fully-grown male elephant can weigh a whopping 13,889 lbs (6300 kilos). Even the smallest adult male rarely dips below 4000 kilos, which is way more than twice the weight on an average family SUV. Females are usually just over half the weight of the male.
The size difference between the two is not as surprising as when it comes to height – the tallest males are 4 meters tall, the tallest female rises to 3.4 meters. Apart from overall size, unless the male is sexually aroused, the most obvious difference between males and females is that females have an angular forehead. In contrast, a bull’s forehead is more rounded.
An African elephant has the giant brain of any mammal alive; it can weigh up to 6 kilos. Its trunk, which serves an elephant like a hand, can be 2 meters long and weigh over 130 kilos – a trunk has no bones but may have 60,000 muscles in it. An elephant uses its tusks as both tools and weapons. The longest recorded tusks were 3.17m long, while the heaviest reached 70kg.
There are two sub-species of the African elephant – the forest and the savannah elephant. You may be lucky to see the smaller and slightly hairier forest elephant in Kibale and Bwindi’s equatorial forests. The savannah elephant dwells throughout the grassy plains and bushlands of Uganda’s massive savannah parks. The two races are thought to interbreed in parts of western Uganda.
Elephants live in herds consisting of related females and their calves. The herds are matriarchal, meaning that they are led by one female, while the males (bulls) tend to roam alone. The family units of savannah elephants tend to be around 10 individuals, but these units can come together to form a ‘clan’ of up to 70 individuals led by one female. The forest elephants live in smaller family units.
Mother—daughter bonds are strong and may exist for up to 50 years. Males generally leave the family group at around 12 years, after which they either roam around on their own or form bachelor herds.
The most exciting sight is when you find them at the waterholes. Take a boat safari on the Victoria Nile in Murchison Falls NP or Kazinga Channel in QENP and catch a front row sight of the gentle giants gracefully flocking the water banks in massive herds.
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