Both the African and Asian elephant have trunks. The trunk is an elongated nose, the upper lip and nose combined. The elephant uses its trunk to breathe, explore its environment, communicate to and about conspecifics, pick up, push, carry, and to drink water or give itself a shower of water, mud, or dirt. It is essential to the survival of the elephant (although some elephants are able to successfully adapt their feeding and drinking behavior after severe trunk injuries). The tip of the trunk of the African elephant has two finger-like projections while the Asian elephant’s trunk tip has only one.
The feet of both species of elephants are round with a large circumference in relation to the legs. The elephant’s weight rests on a pad, which cushions the toes. This pad grows continuously and is worn down by the natural movement of the elephant. The number of toenails on both species of elephants appears to vary from individual (Csuti et al. 2001, Eltringham 1982). Typically Asian elephants have five toenails on each forefoot and four on each hindfoot. The African elephant has four toenails on each forefoot and three or four on each hindfoot.
Populations of both elephant species continue to decline in the wild. Human encroachment, habitat loss, and poaching pose major threats to the extant populations. Conflicts are frequent as the population of humans increases and suitable habitat for elephants decreases. Human or elephant fatalities are often the result.