Elephant Symbolism: For years the elephant has been known as a sacred animal in the East. As the largest animal to walk the Earth, the elephant is known as a symbol of strength and power. It also represents perseverance, in that it is an extremely hard working animal. Some worship the elephant so much as to make it their national symbol, such as Thailand. Elephants are also seen as symbols of wisdom and dignity, because of their incredible intelligence and very long life span.
Elephants are large land mammals in two genera of the family Elephantidae: Elephas and Loxodonta. Three species of elephant are living today: the African bush elephant, the African forest elephant and the Asian elephant (also known as the Indian elephant). All other species and genera of Elephantidae are extinct, some since the last ice age: dwarf forms of mammoths may have survived as late as 2,000 BC. Elephants and other Elephantidae were once classified with other thick-skinned animals in a now invalid order, Pachydermata.
Elephants are the largest land animals now living. The elephant's gestation period is 22 months, the longest of any land animal. At birth it is common for an elephant calf to weigh 120 kilograms (260 lb). They typically live for 50 to 70 years, but the oldest recorded elephant lived for 82 years. The largest elephant ever recorded was shot in Angola in 1956. This male weighed about 24,000 lb (11,000 kg), with a shoulder height of 3.96 metres (13.0 ft), a metre (yard) taller than the average male African elephant.The smallest elephants, about the size of a calf or a large pig, were a prehistoric species that lived on the island of Crete during the Pleistocene epoch.
Elephants are a symbol of wisdom in Asian cultures and are famed for their memory and intelligence, where they are thought to be on par with cetaceans and hominids. Aristotle once said the elephant was "the beast which passeth all others in wit and mind". The word "elephant" has its origins in the Greek ἐλέφας, meaning "ivory" or "elephant".
According to observations, healthy adult elephants have no natural predators, although lions may take calves or weak individuals. They are, however, threatened by human intrusion and poaching.