The savanna elephants that live in the Maasai Mara are the largest subspecies of elephant. Their extra large ears and longer front legs distinguish them from the others.
They can be found in the grassy plains, forests, deserts and bush lands of Africa and live in family units consisting of around 10 females and their offspring. Family units often join together to establish a herd led by a female matriarch. Adult male elephants roam on their own or in bachelor herds. Without unwarranted threats, African elephants can live up to 70 years in the wild.
At 22 months, female elephants have the longest gestation period of any mammal. At birth, a baby African elephant is helpless, and continues to rely on its mother through adolescence. Mother elephants use their trunks to comfort and guide baby elephants. It takes babies some time to learn how to use their trunks properly and not trip over them.
All African elephants have tusks, a blessing and a curse. These tusks are actually elongated incisors with 1/3 of it hidden from view. Elephant tusks continue growing throughout their lifetime. While the tusks are used for defense, they are also useful tools for foraging for food.
African elephants are a keystone species in the Mara/Serengeti ecosystem. By eating and uprooting seedlings in the vast grasslands, they facilitate the growth of numerous grass species. Antelopes, wildebeests and zebras rely on these grasses to graze and predators like cheetahs and scavengers like vultures depend on these grazing animals for sustenance. MEP believes that by protecting the elephants we are also protecting the ecosystem.
An adult African elephant can consume up to 600 pounds of grasses, seedlings, roots, fruit and bark in a single day. In the plains of the Mara/Serengeti, hungry elephants will walk over 50 miles (80 kilometers) in a single day to find food. During the dry periods in the Mara, July to October, elephants venture out of their protected areas in search of food, often finding locals’ farmland an enticing drawl thus creating human-elephant conflict.
These animals have the largest brains of any land mammals; through rumbles, snorts and trumpets they use their special communicative abilities to alert their peers of nourishment, as well as danger.