## Pregnancy Of An Elephant
An elephant is the largest living land animal, so it’s no surprise that they have the longest pregnancies of any mammal on the planet! Elephants carry their young for an impressive 22 months, or nearly two years. This spans not only through gestation, but also includes a long period of nursing and growth for the calf once it is born.
### Elephant Gestation
During the 22 months of pregnancy, a female elephant carries her baby – called a calf – inside her body. At the end of her pregnancy, a single calf is born. Twins are not unheard of but are rare occurrences. In 2006, a female elephant “Hildegard” at the Munich Zoo in Germany gave birth to a rare surviving pair of twins.
### Diet During Pregnancy
Throughout the 22 months of pregnancy, the expectant mother and her calf are in need of a very specific diet. A female pregnant elephant needs to consume food that has a sufficient amount of vitamins, minerals and proteins to support the growth and development of the calf. During the last trimester of the pregnancy, an elephant should consume higher amounts of food to ensure the health of both her and her calf.
### Elephant Labor
When labor begins, the mother elephant typically seeks out a secluded and secure area of her habitat to give birth. The labor process usually lasts between eight to twelve hours. During labor, the mother is usually helped by an older female elephant in the herd, or “auntie”, who is experienced in childbirth and helps guide the mother and calf during the process.
### Elephant Calf Care
Once the calf is born, mother and auntie quickly break the umbilical cord and wipe the calf dry. The newborn will start to stand within a fewhours of being born and attempt to nurse shortly after. By the time the calf is four to six weeks old, it can walk, run and start to explore its habitat alongside the herd and mother.
### Elephant Infant Development
Unlike humans, an elephant calf does not immediately recognize its mother. As it matures, the calf begins to learn sounds, gestures and even its mother’s scent. At this point, the calf will start to recognize its mother and the maternal instinct is strengthened.
### Elephant Nursing
Elephant calves are weaned from the mother’s milk at the age of two years old, the end of the 22-month pregnancy cycle. At this point, the calf is capable of eating solid food and can live independently. While two years may seem like a long time, nursing is especially important for elephants, as it helps strengthen the bond between the mother and calf, and provides the calf with the necessary nutrition throughout its formative years.
In summary, the pregnancy of an elephant is an impressive 22-month process. This includes a careful diet for the mother and calf, a labor process guided by the mother’s auntie, early recognition of the mother, and finally two years of nursing. All of these steps are essential for the health, growth and development of the calf, ensuring that the calf is ready to live independently on its own once the 22 month process is complete.
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