Elephants in Yankari Reserve ©Renato Stecca

Elephant species native to Africa, Loxodonta Africana, is the largest terrestrial animal, celebrated in Yoruba Ijálá chant thus “Erin abiikúnlè pelemomo,” translating as; “O’ elephant, huge as a hill, even in a crouching position.” Unlike other mammals, elephants continue to grow throughout their life, although the rate at which they grow slows after they reach sexual maturity. Head-body length measures 5.4 to 7.5 m, and shoulder height 2.7 to 3.3 m. The elephant weighs from 3000 to 6000kg. They have a long, flexible trunk with nostrils on the end, which is used to pick up food and water and carry it to its mouth. This, together with its tusk, made of ivory, offers defense against predators such as lions. Their massive ear helps radiate excess heat under the harsh African sun.

African Bush Elephants are considered to be highly intelligent and emotional animals, sharing love, caring deeply for the young, and grieving for dead relatives. They mainly eat leaves and branches of bushes and trees, but also eat grasses, fruit, and bark. They replace their teeth six times during their lives but when the elephant is 40 to 60 years old, it no longer has teeth and will likely die of starvation, which is sadly a common cause of death of Elephants in the African wilderness. The gestation period of the African elephant is 22 months and average lifespan is about 70 years.

Presence of elephants in Akure Ofosu and Idanre Forest Reserves where they live a nomadic life has been confirmed while availability in the Ohosu and Ogbesse Forest Reserves in Edo and Ekiti States is probable. Elephant numbers in Nigeria have decreased greatly.

Tope Apoola
Profession: Writer