A baby elephant generally weighs between 200 and 260 lbs when they’re first born and are around three feet tall. That’s the weight of a large full grown man! That might seem like a lot but when you remember that a full grown elephant can weight over 13000 lbs it doesn’t seem quite so much.
The gestation period for a baby elephant ranges from 18 – 24 months depending on the species and other individual factors. When you consider that baby elephants are some of the biggest new born young in the animal kingdom it’s understandable why their mothers spend so long pregnant with them. It takes a long time to provide a growing baby elephant with all of the nutrition it needs to reach a birth weight of over 200 lbs, and that’s not 5% of what that baby elephant will eventually weigh as a full grown adult.
Amazingly even though baby elephants are less than 5% the size of their adult counterparts, their brains are already 30 to 40% the size they will be when fully grown.
All that size comes with an appetite to match. New born elephants can drink over 2 gallons (or over 10 liters) of milk a day and elephants continue drinking their mother’s milk until they’re around ten years old. Though the weaning process does begin as early as six months, with baby elephants starting to eat more and move vegetation from then on as a substitute for their mother’s milk.
Nutrition isn’t the only reason for a long weaning period, this close relationship also gives the mother elephant a chance to teach her baby how to fit in with the herd. Elephants are highly social creatures dependant on their relationships and the young must learn how to interact with their family and friends.