There are two species of elephants: the Asian elephant, which lives in south and southeast Asia, and the African elephant, which lives in sub-Saharan Africa. The can be found living in the tropical forests, woodlands and savannahs of these regions.
The median lifespan of an elephant in the wild is 56 years for female African elephants and 42 years for female Asian elephants. Elephants can reach ages of over 70 years old. In captivity, elephants only live to be about 17 years old — one year short of adulthood.
The size of an elephant depends on the elephant's age, gender and type; the largest elephant was an adult male African elephant who weighed approximately 24,000 pounds and stood 13 feet tall at the shoulder. Most African elephants stand from 8.2 to 13 feet tall at the shoulder.
Depending on the species, elephants are found naturally in Africa and Asia. African elephants are found in most parts of Africa, while Asian elephants are mostly found in the tropical forests in Asia, such as in India, Thailand and Indonesia.
Elephants are gray in color and have a long trunk that has several uses, including breathing and feeding. They are the largest land mammals on Earth.
As of July 2014, there are between 450,000 and 700,000 African elephants in the world, and between 35,000 and 40,000 Asian elephants, according to Defenders of Wildlife. Both species are threatened not only by habitat loss, but also by poaching for the illegal ivory trade.
According to researcher John Hutchinson from the Royal Veterinary College in the U.K., adult elephants are capable of top speed running in a walk-like gait at a speed of 6.8 meters per second. That is nearly 15 mph.
Elephants lack natural predators in nature, largely as a result of their size. They are too big for most would-be predators to take down safely and eat. Humans are the primary predator of elephants, as people still hunt elephants for their ivory, meat and bones.
When elephants walk, each of their legs functions independently, according to John Hutchinson of London's Royal Veterinary College. Elephants position their legs directly under their bodies to support their extreme weight.
Dubbed the "Elephant Man," Joseph Merrick was a British man who was subjected to public ridicule and cruelty because of his extreme physical deformity, reports Biography. As a young adult, he worked as a street performer in a "freak show," where he was discovered by surgeon Frederick Treves.