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World Cup: Nigeria’s African Bush Elephant (Loxodonta africana)

Posted on Jun 20, 2010 by in Theme Weeks, Ungulates | 8 comments

Loxodonta africana

Number 0319

We’re still celebrating the World Cup here at the Daily Mammal, and today we’re closing out Group B with Nigeria and the African bush elephant. These days, scientists generally divide the African elephant into two species, the bush elephant and the forest elephant. Then there’s the Asian elephant, for a total of three kinds of elephants in the world. The biggest is the African bush elephant, which can stand nearly 12 feet tall and weigh, oh, 10 tons or so. In fact, the African bush elephant is the largest land mammal of all.

I’ve just learned a few interesting things about elephants. One is that the sound of buzzing bees will drive elephants away, which means there may be an easy way to keep them from destroying farms and getting themselves killed: play them a recording of a buzzing hive, and feet-don’t-fail-me-now, or at least until they realize that it is just a recording. We need to do more studying to see what would happen.

Another thing: the most common natural death for elephants is starvation. They go through several sets of teeth, each new set growing in just as the previous set is used up. But the last of their teeth are worn out around the age of 65 or 70, not to be replaced, and without being able to really eat, they starve to death. It seems so cruel, but that’s evolution for you.

And finally, a new word: musth. It’s the name for a periodic state that male elephants go through, when their testosterone levels shoot up and they become aggressive, cranky, and dangerous to know, with only one thing on their minds. The word comes from a Persian word meaning intoxicated. (The link above is to a site about keeping elephants in zoos and circuses. About musth, it says, “It is also very discouraging for the elephant keeper to work with a withdrawn, extremely aggressive elephant, which disapproves everything and actually is out to kill him.” I imagine that’s true!)

Nigeria’s soccer team is nicknamed the Super Eagles. This is their fourth World Cup; twice before they’ve made it to the Round of 16, but never any further. They came in third in this year’s African Cup of Nations, the biggest tournament in Africa (well, when the World Cup isn’t there, of course). I suppose it’s possible that they could move out of the first round this year, but of all the possible endings in Group B, only one allows that possibility. (They need Argentina to beat Greece, and then Nigeria needs to beat South Korea, and the goal differential among the non-Argentina teams needs to fall in Nigeria’s favor.) I wish that in this first World Cup held in Africa the African teams were doing better, but Ghana is the only one that’s won a game so far. (Nigeria likely would have won against Greece if not for Sani Kaita’s red card; see my Greece post for more on that.)

Group B Results

What two mammals will continue on to the Group of 16 Mammals from Group B? We have South Korea’s leopard cat, the Mediterranean horseshoe bat from Greece, Argentina’s Patagonian mara, and this here elephant. The bat may be able to get some draws by flying away from the match. Let’s say that’s what it does in all three matches, earning it 3 points (you get one point for a draw in the World Cup). The elephant obviously would trample the mara and the cat, giving it three points for each win and one for its draw with the bat, or a total of 7 points. I think the cat would beat the mara and draw with the bat, so it would have 4 points, and the mara would just have one point for its draw with the bat. So continuing on to the next round from this group are:

African bush elephant (Nigeria)
Leopard cat (South Korea)


  1. You totally captured the elegance of this amazing animal. (I suppose he’s less elegant during musth.) Nicely done!

    I also like your results for Group B. There’s not much that can stop an elephant, even if you can leave the field after scoring — which might be ruled a forfeit. Or your goal might just be denied by a referee who refuses to tell you why. But let’s not go there….

    • Thanks, Ted! Well, I’m the referee, and I say it’s a draw!

  2. This might be my favourite of all your pictures.

    • Thank you so much, Julia. I think you’ve seen them all, too…

  3. What a neat idea! I just got back from the World Cup and a mammal-loving friend sent this link to me. I posted about your blog today on my own art+craft blog –

    • Hey, thanks, Katie. I hope you’ll come back again. How was it being at the World Cup?

    • Oh my goodness! That’s just terrible. I’m glad that didn’t happen during Amy’s wedding.

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