• African elephants are the largest land animals on Earth! Watch this video for an up-close look at these gentle giants.


    Elephants live in matriarchies—communities made up of elephant mothers, sisters, and babies that work together to survive on the African savanna. These elephant matriarchies coordinate movement, care for one another, and mourn the deaths of family members.


    African elephants are threatened by the ivory trade. Ivory is a luxury item used in such materials as piano keys, billiard balls, and carved decorations. Ivory is made from the tusks, or long teeth, of African elephants. Thousands of elephants are poached, or hunted illegally, every year.


    Watch this video, from the National Geographic film Battle for the Elephants, and see if you can answer the questions in the “Questions” tab.

    1. Soila, the naturalist in the video, says that elephants have excellent memories. How do you think elephants use their memories to survive in their environment?

      Answers will vary! Elephants’ good memories help them find sources of food and water—places they have been before at different times of the year. This is especially important in times of drought.


      Elephants live in matriarchal communities, made up of female members. According to the video, male elephants wander around on their own, or live in “looser communities.” What do you think makes male elephant communities different from elephant matriarchies?

      Answers will vary! The “looser community” of male elephants is probably not as long-lasting as matriarchies, probably not made up of family members, and probably doesn’t work together as closely as matriarchies do.

    3. The video says tusks are actually elephants' long incisor teeth. What are incisors? Can you think of other animals with tusks?

      Incisors are mammals’ front teeth. Human beings have eight incisors—four on our top jaw, and four on our lower jaw.


      Many other animals have tusks, although elephants are the only ones with elongated incisors. The tusks of walruses, boars, warthogs, and narwhals are elongated canines (the sharp teeth next to your incisors.) In the narwhal’s case, just the left canine is elongated into a tusk!

  • Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry
    conservation Noun

    management of a natural resource to prevent exploitation, destruction, or neglect.

    Encyclopedic Entry: conservation
    coordinate Verb

    to work together or organize for a specific goal.

    ivory Noun

    hard, white substance that forms the teeth or tusks of some animals.

    luxury Noun

    expensive item.

    matriarchy Noun

    family, society, or community led by women.

    mourn Verb

    to express sadness over a person's death.

    poach Verb

    to hunt, trap, or fish illegally.

    savanna Noun

    type of tropical grassland with scattered trees.

    survive Verb

    to live.

    tusk Noun

    very long tooth found in animals like elephants and walruses.

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