Animated Moving Pictures BiographyElephants (Proboscidea) are a group of large herbivorous land mammals. There are three species of elephants alive today, the African savanna elephant, the African forest elephant and the Asian elephant. There are four subspecies of Asian elephants which include the Borneo elephant, the Sumatran elephant, the Indian elephant and the Sri Lankan elephant.
The various elephants species differ in their appearance. Asian elephants are smallest of all elephant species. They have a smaller body, smaller ears and females lack tusks. African savanna elephants are the largest of all the elephant species. They have large ears, a short and wide mandible, and both males and females have tusks. African forest elephants have a long and narrow mandible, a characteristic which distinguishes them from African savanna elephants which have a short, wide mandible.
Elephants have a bulky body, large ears, a long trunk and most have proimant tusks (although female Asian elephants lack tusks). They have thick grey skin but often their color is red or brown in color from wallowing in mud and dusting with dirt.
The trunk of an elephant is formed from the elephant's upper lip and nose. An elephant's trunk is highly sensitive and enables it to lift food and water from ground level to its mouth—tasks that would otherwise be challenging due to the height of an elephant. To drink, elephants suction water up into their trunk (as much as ten quarts) and then spray it into their mouth. The elephant's nasal openings are located at the end of its trunk.
Elephants have sparse hair covering their body and their skin. Their skin, which appears tough an leathery, is in fact extremely sensitive and requires a great deal of care. Elephants bath frequently, wallow in the mud. They also dust their skin by tossing dirt over themselves. Bathing, wallowing, and dusting removes parasites, cools the skin and applies a layer of protective dirt that acts as a sunscreen.
Elephants are herbivores and require a great deal of food each day—more than 800 pounds per individual, daily. They eat grass, foliage, twigs, branches and fruit. Elephants are capable of uprooting over entire trees as they forage. For this reason, elephants are often viewed as destructive pests wherever their range overlaps with human populations.
The skeleton of an elephant is shaped by its need to support the animal's massive weight. Elephants have stocky, sturdy limb bones and their feet are wide. The heel is reinforced with a cushion of dense connective tissue.
Central Africa including the Congo Basin, south Africa, India and southeast Asia. Asian elephants inhabit grasslands, tropical forests and scrub forests in India and southeast Asia including Sumatra and Borneo. African savanna elephants inhabit savannas and grasslands in central and southern Africa. African forest elephants inhabit forests in the Congo Basin in central Africa.
Elephants form a group of mammals. There are two genera of elephants, the Loxodonta which includes the African savanna elephant and the African forest elephant and the Elephas which includes the Asian elephant.
Elephants closest living relative are manatees. Other close relatives to elephants include hydraxes and rhinoceroses. Although today there are only two living species in the elephant family, there used to be some 150 species including animals
Unless you've been living under a rock, you all know Knut (pronounced 'ka-noot'): the sweet journal of his cute, cuddly baby frosty-bear face - his four short years of life as a resident and visitor magnet at the Berlin Zoo - is resplendent on the 'net. Google 'Knut' - just his name, no further keyword necessary - and you'll be rewarded with hours of smile-generating, awwww-inducing photos of the precocious Polar Bear.
The controversy began with the rejection by his mother at birth, followed by his being snapped up as the tiny helpless, almost-furless infant-cub he was (in the wild, it is common for the mother bear to eat her cub(s) if she has, for reasons only a new mother Polar bear understands, determined her offspring either too weak to survive or if she is simply a first-time, utterly-confused and annoyed mother) and given over to zoo keeper Thomas Dörflein to hand raise.
There's much more to learn, and I'm being overly-simplistic here because my point doesn't need the particular details (visit WikiPedia for the best, in-a-nutshell synopsis of little Knut's life, his caretakers, and the controversy that swirled around him around his 1st birthday).
Of course there are always those who choose to stand for one extreme or the other.
I experienced a childhood not unlike that: you do the one thing, and are chided for doing it wrong. So you do it the other way, and are scolded for doing it wrong. You're damned if you do, damned if you don't.
An animal rights activist started the spark, publicly denouncing 1 year old Knut as a 'psychopath' of a bear, a casualty of bad judgement, basically decrying Knut's 'spoiled' and 'un-bear-like' life in the zoo as tragic, that he would have been better off had the zoo allowed nature to take its course (allowing the cub(s) to starve and fail, and/or be eaten by their mother after rejection) instead of his current 'spoofhood', the emptiness of his 'bear life', as it was certain Knut would never have a mate, cubs of his own, etc., as he had absolutely no knowledge or experience of 'being a Polar bear' to live by.
This accompanied by shots of a wet and dirty 1 year old Knut rolling in joyful abandon on the rocky poolside of his habitat.
Sure, Knut had become the new staple of pop culture, the cutie of the moment, and merchandising had become a huge enterprise (stuffed toys, snacks, coloring books, not to mention souvenirs, all selling like hotcakes not only in the zoo gift shop but worldwide), verging on exploitation (Vanity Fair magazine shoot with celeb Leo DeCaprio, the subject of songs, weekly TV shows, DVD's, and yes, a motion picture, etc, etc.).
For me, the surprisingly-profound cherry atop the media blitz was this: a book (published in Germany by Ravensburger on July 26, 2007; US publishing company Scholastic released the English version in the United States in November of the same year; rights to the book were also sold to publishers in Japan, England, Mexico, China, and Italy over the next few years) entitled Knut: How one little polar bear captivated the world.
For me, that title says it all.
Knut. The little Polar Bear that, indeed, captivated the world.
Because for all the fuss and holler over whether it was cruel (or not) to have rescued Knut from certain death to let him grow up in a way no Polar Bear ever would, in the wild, I believe Knut had a purpose that embraced his unorthodox cub-hood, a destiny that superceded all the ideas of natural vs. unnatural, morally right vs. ethically wrong.
Regardless of how 'unnatural' it was that he fawn and climb all over his non-bear 'mama', Thomas Dörflein, the man who raised him as a cub to a little after his 1st birthday (and who, sadly, died after suffering a heart attack in 2008), that he pose and tumble for the thousands of human visitors to his habitat, that Knut was so comfortable with the constant click and flash of cameras he seemed to be addicted to humans and their attention - regardless. Knut served the world a far greater purpose than he would have, had he gown up as a mother-approved, albeit captive, but more 'beary' bear, or had he been ultimately blessed to have been a Polar Bear born in and living in the wild country and glaciers and ice of the arctic, along with the approximately 20,000 other 'natural' Polar Bears alive in the world today - all of them no-less important, but nameless and faceless to the world.
See, there is a tragedy happening as I write. Polar bears are slowly - more rapidly now, however - losing their battle to survive, as climate changes, ice melt, are destroying their natural habitat.and resulting in their suffering starvation and death, in massive numbers yearly compared to the cycles of centuries past. The numbers of Polar Bears living in the wild are in the neighborhood of 20,000 to 30,000 today, but are expected to face a 30% drop in just the next decade! Will it be THEN, when there are perhaps 10,000 Polar Bears in existence, or less, that the humans of the world realize something needs to be done? It might be too late.
So one asks the blunt question: would it have been better for Knut to have been born into the iffy-ness of a 'natural' life in the arctic? Maybe. Was it better that he lived a spoiled, pampered and media-circus life at the zoo? Maybe, maybe not. For a few year, however, he was safe.
And from all of those snapshots, those Kodak moments that relayed his every day's experiences to the world, he appeared to be healthy and happy, if happy could be something an animal can be described as (I think so, but scientists are still out on that one).