The elephants (Elephantidae) are a family in the order Proboscidea in the class Mammalia. They were once classified along with other thick skinned animals in a now invalid order, Pachydermata. There are three living species: the African Bush Elephant, the African Forest Elephant (until recently known collectively as the African Elephant), and the Asian Elephant (also known as the Indian Elephant). Other species have become extinct since the last ice age, which ended about 10,000 years ago, the Mammoth being the most well-known of these. **************************************** The word "elephant" has its origins in the Greek, meaning "ivory" or "elephant". ***************Elephants are mammals, and the largest land animals alive today.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 (265 lb). An elephant may live as long as 70 years, sometimes longer. The largest elephant ever recorded was shot in Angola in 1956. This male weighed about 12,000 kg (26,400 lb), with a shoulder height of 4.2 m (13.8 ft), a metre (3 ft 4 in) 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 symbols of wisdom in Asian cultures, and are famed for their exceptional memory and high intelligence, rivalled only by cetaceans and hominids.************************Elephants are increasingly threatened by human intrusion and poaching. Once numbering in the millions, the African elephant population has dwindled to between 470,000 and 690,000 individuals.The elephant is now a protected species worldwide, with restrictions in place on capture, domestic use, and trade in products such as ivory. Elephants generally have no natural predators, although lions may take calves and occasionally adults. In some areas, lions may regularly take to preying on elephants. *************The African Elephant genus contains two (or, arguably, three) living species; whereas, the Asian Elephant species is the only surviving member of its genus, but can be subdivided into three subspecies. African elephants, at up to 4 m (13 ft 1 in)tall and weighing 7500 kg (8.27 short tons), are usually larger than the Asian species and they have bigger ears. Both male and female African elephants have long tusks, while their Asian counterparts have shorter ones, with those of females vanishingly small. African elephants have a dipped back, smooth forehead and two "fingers" at the tip of their trunks, whereas the Asian have an arched back, two humps on the forehead and only one "finger" at the tip of their trunks.***********************African elephants are further subdivided into two populations, the Savanna and Forest, and recent genetic studies have led to a reclassification of these as separate species, the forest population now being called Loxodonta cyclotis, and the Savanna (or Bush) population termed Loxodonta africana. This reclassification has important implications for conservation, because it means that where previously it was assumed that a single and endangered species comprised two small populations, if in reality these are two separate species, then as a consequence, both could be more gravely endangered than a more numerous and wide-ranging single species might have been. There is also a potential danger in that, if the forest elephant is not explicitly listed as an endangered species, poachers and smugglers might be able to evade the law forbidding trade in endangered animals and their body parts. The Forest elephant and the Savanna elephant can hybridise - that is, breed together - successfully, though their preferences for different terrains reduce such opportunities. As the African elephant has only recently been recognized to comprise two separate species, groups of captive elephants have not been comprehensively classified and some could well be hybrids.*******************Successful hybridisation between African and Asian Elephant species is much more unlikely, as is animal hybridization across different genera in general. In 1978, however, at Chester Zoo, an Asian elephant cow gave birth to a hybrid calf sired by an African elephant bull (the old terms are used here as these events pre-date the current classifications). "Motty", the resulting hybrid male calf, had an African elephant's cheeks, their ears (large with pointed lobes) and legs (longer and slimmer), but the toenail numbers, (5 for each front foot, 4 hind) and the single trunk finger of an Asian elephant. His wrinkled trunk was like that of an African elephant. His forehead was sloping with one dome and two smaller domes behind it. The body was African in type, but had an Asian-type centre hump and an African-type rear hump. The calf died of infection 12 days later. It is preserved as a mounted specimen at the British Natural History Museum, London. There are unconfirmed rumours of three other hybrid elephants born in zoos or circuses; all are said to have been deformed and none survived.