THE WORLD OF ANIMAL FRIENDS
Elephants (Elephantidae) are a family from the order of proboscideans. The family represents the largest currently living land animals and also includes the only representatives of the order group still living today. Three recent species are distinguished: the African elephant, which inhabits the largely open landscapes of sub-Saharan Africa; the forest elephant, also native to Africa but largely restricted to tropical rainforests; and the Asian elephant, found in southern and southeastern Asia, which uses a variety of landscapes. All elephants are distinguished by their trunk, a muscular organ formed by the fusion of the nose with the upper lip, and by their tusks formed from the upper incisors. Other striking features are found in the massive physique with columnar legs and the gray, sparsely hairy skin.
Elephants are social animals, living in family groups of female individuals and their offspring. They roam more or less large action areas in search of food. The size of the action areas and the extent of the migratory movements depend on local conditions such as the landscape used and the resulting food supply. Males, on the other hand, either live solitary lives or form into bachelor groups. Communication among themselves, both within and between the various family groups, takes place in several ways. These include odors, which are conveyed via feces, urine, and glandular secretions, tactile contacts with the proboscis, among other things, various body gestures, and a rich vocalization, in which variable rumbling sounds in the low frequency range are to be emphasized.
Elephants played a significant role in human social development and history. They were initially hunted or used as a food resource and source of raw materials, found their way into art and culture more than 30,000 years ago, and also gained great importance in later times with the settling down and the emergence of various advanced civilizations. Only the Asian elephant entered as a tamed animal permanently in the service of man. It functioned at first as a beast of burden and work animal, later it was used in wars and was regarded as a sign of extraordinary size and power.