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African elephant (female)African elephant (female) The largest land animals in the world, elephants have large ears and long, flexible trunks. There are two species of elephant. The African elephant lives in grasslands or in forests south of the Sahara desert in Africa. Asian elephants live in the forests of the Indian subcontinent, Sri Lanka, Southeast Asia, southern China and Indonesia. Elephants are highly intelligent animals. Females stay in family groups led by the oldest female, while males travel alone or in small bands. Their diet is at least 50% grass, with leaves, bamboo, twigs, bark, roots, and small amounts of fruits, seeds and flowers making up the rest. An elephant's life span, around 70 years, is limited to the time when their last teeth wear out. From then on it is incapable of chewing its food properly and starves to death.

Asian or African?

African elephantAfrican elephantThe African elephant is the largest land animal in the world. There are two subspecies of African elephant: the savanna (or bush) elephant and the forest elephant. Living in the forests of West and Central Africa, the forest elephant has more rounded ears, and thinner, straighter tusks than the savanna elephant. 

African (left) and Asian (right) trunks comparedAfrican (left) and Asian (right) trunks comparedAsian elephants are smaller, with smaller ears and shorter tusks than African elephants. The African elephant's ears are, on average, at least three time the size of the Asian elephant's. Only the male Asians have tusks that protrude beyond the lips, whereas both male and female African elephant have long tusks.

Asian elephantAsian elephant The Asian’s trunk has only one "finger" at the tip of its trunk, while the African has two. The African's back has a dip in it, while the Asian's back is arched. The African has a smooth forehead while the Asian has two humps on its forehead. The neck of the African elephant is almost horizontal whereas in the Asian elephant it is held up at about 45°.

African elephants rarely lie down unless they are sick or wounded; Asian elephants lie down frequently. Asians are also easier to tame than Africans. They are still used in many parts of South Asia for carrying people and heavy loads, such as timber.

One of the elephant's tusks is often used more than the other, revealing whether the individual is either right-tusked or left-tusked.

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