Asian elephant (South-east Asia)
Asian elephants are social animals, living in very closely knit herds of 10–30 usually led by an elderly female. It is she who coordinates the group’s movements in search of food and water. Males leave the herd at sexual maturity and never come into contact with females except when the latter are in heat. The rest of the time they travel alone or, for short periods, with other males. Babies are born after a 22-month pregnancy – a record! They drink about 10 litres of breastmilk daily, and at 4–6 months of age start to use their trunk to take in solid food.
Baby giraffes measure 1.5–1.8m at birth, growing about 20cm in their first month. They start to eat solid food at around the age of 10 days in zoos (3 weeks in the wild) and to graze at about 2 months. Giraffes’ hearts weigh 11kg and pump about 60 litres of blood a minute. Their bloodstreams are adapted to their morphology so that their brains are well supplied. Whether a giraffe is upright or lowers its head, its blood pressure remains high (allowing a good supply to the head) and constant thanks to valves within the arteries.
White rhinoceros (Africa)
There are 5 rhinoceros species. All are highly endangered due to being hunted for their horns, which are used in traditonal Asian medicine for their so-called curative properties.
The Zoo de La Palmyre saw its very first white rhino birth in November 2012.
Hippos can open their mouths 180°. Groups usually consist of 15–30 hippos but may contain many more when water is scarce. Their tusks are used to intimidate enemies and for self-defense. They can inflict serious injuries. This species is endangered due to being hunted for its meat and the ivory of its tusks. Some populations have dwindled by more than 95%.