• This video takes an up-close look at African elephants in their natural environment. Viewers will gain insight into the structure of elephant matriarchies—communities made up of related females—and learn about how members communicate to coordinate movement, care for one another, and mourn the deaths of family members.


    The video also provides a brief overview of the physical characteristics that make African elephants so unique—including their tusks. The illegal poaching of elephants for their tusks and the resulting black-market trade in elephant ivory has pushed the elephant population to the lowest levels ever recorded.


    Produced to accompany the National Geographic film Battle for the Elephants, which explores the history of and economics behind the brutal slaughter of African elephants for their tusks, this short video takes us into the world of the African elephant—a world where survival is increasingly at risk.

    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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