Baby elephants are more appropriately known as calves. Adult elephants are mature enough to give birth to calves once they're 13 years old. A calf develops for 22 months before birthing. Elephants only give birth to one calf at a time. In the wild, elephants live throughout expansive areas of Africa and Asia.
At birth, an elephant calf is about 2 1/2 feet tall and weighs between 150 and 250 lbs. It is the largest land mammal in the world, and thus the largest newborn land animal.
In the first year, an elephant calf gains about 30 pounds every week to due the large amount of milk it drinks from its mother.
Initially, calves suckle milk from their mothers, consuming over 10 liters per day. But just like the rest of the herd, elephant calves must learn to become herbivores after about two years of life. Large, leafy plants are the most common item of food for an elephant, and adults are responsible for teaching their calves how to eat it (by grasping with the trunk and placing food into the mouth).
Elephants are a very intelligent species, but calves rely on their elders for a lot of their habitual training during the first few months of life. Elephants are born into herds, where they become the center of attention. Calves cannot do much on their own to protect themselves against lions, so the herd must make the young elephant's safety a group priority.
Calves do not have tusks, which do not develop until about a year into the elephant's life. Other characteristics are similar to adult elephants, in that calves can walk from birth, have hard skin, large ears and long trunks. The trunks are very important at birth, because a newborn elephant cannot yet open its eyes and must use its trunk to feel around.
Elephants live long lives, between 60 and 80 years. Their life cycle is similar to that of a human's, and calves are entirely dependent on their mothers for at least the first year of life. The weaning process may continue until they are about 10 years old. Newborn elephants' brains grow at a similar rate as a human's. Calves brains are only about 35 percent of what their size eventually becomes by adulthood.
- Photo Credit The elephant with the elephant"s baby image by wolandmaster from Fotolia.com
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