Elephants are endangered animals and that is a statement that all of us need to take very seriously. They are enormous animals and one that many cultures hold in high regard. Yet the number of them in the wild continues to plummet at an alarming rate. It is going to take educating the public, plenty of aggressive conservation efforts, arresting poachers, and protecting the natural habitat of these animals if we are going to help them to survive.
Elephants are able to survive in a variety of different locations because of the huge variety of food sources that they consume. Many people assume that elephants that are in the wild only live in the grasslands. While that is one of their main habitats, they can also be found in the desert of the Savannah, forest areas, where there are swamps, and everything in between.
Elephants are the largest of all living land animals, capable of growing up to 11 feet tall and weighing 14,000 pounds, in the case of the African elephant. There are several elephant species. They are, as a group, distributed across a wide range of habitats, but each species has its own unique traits and living conditions relative to its geographic distribution.
Our paper, published in BMC Zoology, is a labor of love, and for me came 30 years after I accidentally stumbled into the world of elephants. I was a postdoctoral fellow in 1987 at the Uniformed Services University in Bethesda, MD studying testicular function in rat and sheep models when I got a call from the elephant curator at the National Zoo, who asked if I could measure hormones in elephants. He had a young female (a 13 year old named Shanthi) they wanted to breed, but didn’t know if she had reached puberty.