The African bush elephant is the largest and heaviest land animal on earth, being up to 4 metres tall at the shoulder and 10 tonnes in weight.
The African bush elephant is herbivorous. Over time, these molars are worn away, and new ones are grown to replace them as the elephant ages. Around the age of 15, the milk teeth are replaced by new ones that last until the age of 30, and then by another set which wear off past the age of 40, being replaced by the last set of teeth that last until about the age of 65–70. Not much later, the animal dies of starvation from not being able to feed correctly.Elephants also drink great quantities of water, over 190 litres per day.
Adult males usually live alone. Herds are made up of related females and their young, led by the eldest female, called the matriarch. Infrequently, an adult male goes with them, but those usually leave the herd when reaching adolescence to form bachelor herds with other elephants of the same age. Later, they lead a solitary life, approaching the female herds only during the mating season. Nevertheless, elephants do not get too far from their families and recognize them when re-encountered.
The matriarch decides the route and shows the other members of the herd all the water sources she knows, which the rest can memorize for the future. The relations among the members of the herd are very tight; when a female gives birth, the rest of the herd acknowledges it by touching her with their trunks. When an old elephant dies, the rest of the herd stays by the corpse for a while.
The adult African bush elephant generally has no natural predators due to its great size, but the calves are vulnerable to lion and crocodile attacks, and rarely to leopard and hyena attacks.
Humans are the elephant’s major predator. They have been hunted for meat, skin, bones, and tusks. Trophy hunting increased in the 19th and 20th centuries, when tourism and plantations increasingly attracted sport hunters. In 1989, hunting of the African bush elephant for ivory trading was forbidden, after the elephant population fell from several million at the beginning of the 20th century to fewer than 700,000. Trophy hunting continues today. The population of African bush elephants was halved during the 1980s. Scientists then estimated, if no protective measures were taken, the wild elephant would have been extinct by 1995. The protection the elephant now receives has been partially successful, but despite increasingly severe penalties imposed by governments against illegal hunting, poaching is still common.