PUBLISHED : Friday, 10 October, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 10 October, 2008, 12:00am

Elephants are the largest and heaviest living land mammals. They and their extinct relatives have lived everywhere in the world except for Australia and Antarctica. To some people, they are pests. To others, they are workers. In the past, they were used in war, as tanks are today. They have been hunted for their tusks - the big front teeth. An elephant's long nose is called a trunk.

African or Asian?

There are two main kinds of elephants - African and Asian. The Asian elephant has been tamed for hundreds of years. Only a few thousand survive in the wild. The African elephant has never been tamed.

The African elephant has two 'fingers' at the end of its trunk. The Asian elephant only has one 'finger'. African elephants are much bigger than Asian elephants.

Why elephants are important

Elephants eat a lot of food every day. They eat grass, seeds, fruit and sometimes crops. An elephant's stomach does not work very well. So, a lot of the food it eats is not digested. Many animals can pick out bits of food from the elephant's dung.

In the wild, elephants use their tusks to dig in the ground. They use their strong trunks to push over trees. They clear the way for forest to become grassland.

Tame elephants are used for all sorts of things. Most of the jobs they do rely on the elephant's great strength, like moving trees that have been cut down in the Asian forests. In many places they are used to give rides to tourists.

Mining salt

All animals need salt to survive. Elephants are no different. Other animals can lick the salt. But elephants' tongues are not long enough to do this. They have to mine it. They push their tusks into the ground and dig up lumps of earth. They get salt from eating the rocks and dirt. Sometimes they have to dig deep to get the salt. Salt is also found in caves. Elephants use their tusks to scrape the rock and get the salt.

now do this

E is for elephant. Can you fill in other letters of the alphabet to complete the animal names?

1) B_ _ d

2) C_t

3) F_ _g

4) H_ _s_

5) Li _ _

6) M _ _ s _

7) Pa _ _ ot

8) T _ g _ r


1. bird, 2. cat, 3. frog, 4. horse, 5. lion, 6. mouse, 7. parrot, 8. tiger