Photographer: Andy Lederer; License CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
After two elephants have successfully mated, the period in which the baby is inside the mother is the longest of any animal on earth: a whole 22 months--that's almost two years!
When an elephant calf is born, it can weigh up to 250 pounds! Talk about a big baby! As well, elephants are completely blind when they are born and are especially well-cared for in their matriarchal herd. With all the mothers, daughters, sisters, aunts, and grandmothers around, it is seriously no wonder that an elephant is raised with such love, nurture, and attention!
Unfortunately, this sort of nurture has downsides: unlike other mammal babies, elephant calves are extremely dependant on the care of their mother. If anything goes wrong in the herd, the calves are in immediate danger to predators or natural disasters. Interestingly enough, the sticky mud along the famous water holes that elephants walk miles to drink at are the cause of many elephant calf deaths! Because elephants are not agile, if a baby gets stuck in the mud, the mother and her fellow female elephants experience great difficulty trying to pry the little calf out!
On the plus side, elephant mothers are very protective of their young and will stop at nothing to rescue them from harm. It is a well-known fact that mothers will wrap their tails around their babies to bring them close and away from danger.