The largest living land animal
Modern elephants are the last survivors of the "trunked" family of mammals that once ranged the entire planet. Their closest known relatives are dugongs and manatees, hyraxes, and aardvarks.
Elephants are extremely intelligent, and are capable of emotions including grief.
There are 2 species of elephant - the African elephant (Loxodonta africana) and the Asian elephant (Elephas maximus). The African elephant is larger and more abundant than its Asian counterpart.
They are all herbivores and feed on leaves, bark from trees, grasses, and spend about 16 hours a day collecting food.
The elephant's trunk and tusks are its 2 most unique and distinctive features. The trunk is a boneless elongation of its upper lip and nose, and the tusks are actually enlarged, protruding incisor teeth. The African elephant's trunk is so adept, that it can turn the pages of a book or pluck a single blade of grass!
In Hindu religion, God Ganesh, the God of wisdom, has an elephant’s head, and in Thailand a white elephant is considered holy. Elephants are also significant because they play an extremely important part in the ecosystem and affect biodiversities in the regions they inhabit.
Your chances of seeing one in the wild
Getting better all the time in terms of African elephants.
Man forms the only threat to elephants, as they have no natural predators. But despite a global ban on the trade of elephant parts, they are still under pressure, especially in Asia, from the constant reduction in the amount of space they have to live in.
The African and the Asian species of the elephant are listed in IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, as "vulnerable" and "endangered" respectively.