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Wildlife in Southern Africa
Photo taken in Namibia/Africa – Etosha National Park
African elephant (Loxodonta africana)
Elephants are herbivores and they can be found in numerous habitats, including savannas, forests, deserts and marshes, and prefer to stay near water. Elephants are considered to be keystone species due to the impact they have on their environments. Other animals tend to keep their distance, and predators such as lions, tigers, hyenas and wild dogs usually target only the calves. Females or cows tend to live in family groups, which can consist of just one female with her calves or several related females with offspring. The latter are led by the oldest cow, known as the matriarch. Elephants appear to have a fission-fusion society in which multiple family groups come together for socialising. Males or bulls leave their family groups when they reach puberty, and may live alone or with other males. Adult bulls mostly interact with family groups when looking for a mate and enter a state of increased testosterone and aggression known as musth, which helps them gain dominance and reproductive success. Calves are the centre of attention in their family groups, and rely on their mothers for as long as three years. Elephants communicate by touch, sight, and sound and use infrasound and seismics for long-distance communication. Elephant have long lifespans, living up to 70 years in the wild.