Elephants, largest of all land animals, are among the most recognizable and beloved creatures on Earth. They are represented by three extant species: the African bush elephant (Loxodonta africana), the African forest elephant (L. cyclotis) and the Asian elephant (Elephas maximus). The two African species were traditionally considered to be two different subspecies, in the same species. These three species are scattered throughout sub-Saharan Africa and South to Southeast Asia. The elephant's gestation period is 22 months, the longest of any land animal. At birth it is common for an elephant calf to weigh 120 kg (265 lb). An elephant may live as long as 70 years, sometimes longer. This male weighed about 12,000 kg (26,400 lb), with a shoulder height of 4.2m (13.8 ft), a metre (3 ft 4 in) taller than the average male African elephant.
An elephant eats daily during the dry season 150-170 kg of food and drinks 80 liters of water, while during the rainy season they eat 200-280 kg of food daily. Elephants ingest regularly soil containing iron and bicarbonate. Savanna elephants eat mainly grass and woody vegetation (especially during the dry season) while forest elephants eat mainly fruit and woody plants. Elephants digest cellulose with the help of protozoa in the cecum and the thick gut.
They cannot survive more than 24 hours without drinking. That's why elephants are never too far from a water source. Water is also essential for bathing each evening. Elephants are good swimmers and will immerse themselves completely when they find water deep enough. By covering themselves with dirt, elephants protect themselves against insect bites.
Elephant have only 4 functional teeth, 12 in (30 cm) long, which can be replaced 6 times. After the last replacement, the elephant can no longer feed properly.
Elephant foot has underside soft cushions, elephants can walk almost noiselessly. A walking elephant has a speed of about 5.5 mi (9 km) per hour and it "runs" with a speed of 25 mi (40 km) per hour, faster than the most rapid human athletes, despite their huge size. Elephants living in the forest are sedentary, but those in dry places migrate, traveling up to 500 km (300 mi).
Elephants also use their trunks as snorkels when they wade in deep water. An elephant's trunk is controlled by many muscles. Two fingerlike parts on the tip of the trunk allow the elephant to perform delicate maneuvers such as picking a berry from the ground or plucking a single leaf off a tree.
The elephant can also use its trunk to grasp an entire tree branch and pull it down to its mouth.
Elephants also use their trunks to yank up clumps of grasses and shove the greenery into their mouths.
When an elephant gets a whiff of something interesting, it sniffs the air with its trunk raised up like a submarine periscope. If threatened, an elephant will also use its trunk to make loud trumpeting noises as a warning.
Elephants are social creatures. They sometimes "hug" by wrapping their trunks together in displays of greeting and affection. Elephants also use their trunks to help lift or nudge an elephant calf over an obstacle, to rescue a fellow elephant stuck in mud, or to gently raise a newborn elephant to its feet. And just as a human baby sucks its thumb, an elephant calf often "sucks its trunk" for comfort.