The elephant species that still survive in the 21st Century are the African savannah elephant, the African forest elephant and the Asian elephant. They differ in a number of physical characteristics. Asian elephants generally are smaller and have smaller ears. All three species have become the subjects of local reintroduction and conservation programs.
In the matriarchal organization of elephants, males are characterized by their independent temperament and tend to live alone. Females, however, maintain close strong family ties.
Males become reproductively active around the age of 10-15 years and breed when they are about 30 years old, the age at which they are strong enough to fight against other males in order to gain access to females.
The gestation period of an elephant is the longest of all land mammals, lasting for about 20 to 22 months. Breastfeeding continues for 36 to 48 months. Gestation takes longer for a male elephant fetus than for a female one. In most cases, only a single elephant is conceived and twins are rare.
Elephant herds are made up of about a dozen elephants and young calves. Males tend to leave the group once they have attained sexual maturity. They wander about individually until they form alliances with other young males.
Recent scientific studies have shown that elephants, like many animals, are sensitive to infrasound. The usefulness of being sensitive to infrasound still remains a mystery in elephants. It seems that they are able to communicate with each other by acoustic waves transmitted through the ground surface.