Man strokes head of an elephant stood in a river with her baby
Man strokes head of an elephant stood in a river with her baby

Elephant Pregnancy Facts

In the opening of Disney’s 1941 classic animated film, Dumbo, we see a phalanx of storks (that’s the technical term for a group of storks) carrying babies to their parents at the circus. Only Mrs Jumbo is waiting for her baby, until eventually Dumbo comes along. We all know that baby elephants aren’t really flown in by storks – they’d be much too heavy for them to fly with – but, how much do you actually know about elephant pregnancies?

Man strokes head of an elephant stood in a river with her baby

How long are elephants pregnant for?

How long an elephant is pregnant for depends a little on the species. African elephants are pregnant for up to 22 months, while Asian elephants are pregnant for 18-22 months. This is actually the longest gestation period of all mammals, which makes sense when we think about how big elephants are. A blue whale is only pregnant for 10-12 months, nearly half the length of an elephant pregnancy. Compare this to a hamster – those little guys are only pregnant for 16 days at a time!

How many babies can an elephant have at once?

Unlike other animals, elephants usually only have one baby at a time. However, there are cases where elephants can have twins, but this only happens in one per cent of elephant births. This is only slightly smaller compared to humans, where 1.6 per cent of births are twins. As you can imagine, carrying two huge babies can be very dangerous for the mother. However, we do see this happening, particularly with wild African elephants.

How big is a baby elephant when it’s born?

At birth, elephants can weigh up to 268 pounds and stand about 3ft tall. That’s about the same weight as a fully grown panda bear, reindeer or warthog. Asian elephants are a little skinnier at around 200 pounds, although they’re about the same height. For context, human children don’t get to 3ft tall until they’re 2-3 years old. Imagine the poor stork having to carry all that weight!

How many babies can an elephant have?

Elephants give birth around every four years, and given their pregnancies can last around two years, that is quite a lot! Although elephants can live for 60-70 years, they typically only have about four or five babies during their lives. Even so, that’s still a large chunk of their lifetime spent being pregnant.

A mum and baby elephant and man

When are elephant babies born?

When there’s plenty of food about, elephants can be born throughout the year. However, in areas of Africa, for example, where there can be food shortages at certain times of year, elephants are typically born in the rainy season. A study on working elephants in Myanmar showed that 40 per cent of babies were born between December and March at the beginning of the dry season.

What is a baby elephant called?

A lot of the words we use for elephants are similar to those we use for cows. A baby elephant is called a calf, and then it grows up to be a cow if it’s a girl, or a bull if it’s a juvenile male. This makes sense because a group of elephants is also called a herd, just like a herd of cows.

Helping working elephants

Elephants are fascinating animals and a large number of them spend their lives working. Throughout Asia, these beautiful creatures are used as working animals in the logging or agricultural industries.
At SPANA, we support working animals across the world including working elephants, particularly in Myanmar. We’re helping to improve the welfare of the 6,000 Asian elephants that are used in Myanmar’s logging industry. Common issues facing these elephants include eye and skin conditions, as well as infectious diseases. SPANA vets provide vital care for these elephants, reaching remote and inaccessible jungle areas in their mobile clinics.
If you’d like to help working elephants, or other animals like donkeys and horses, you can do so by getting involved and help us to help these deserving animals.

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