African elephants live in the grasslands, forests, rainforests and deserts of sub-Saharan Africa. Their diet includes leaves, bark, fruit, grass and other types of vegetation. African elephants typically live to be around 70 years old in their natural habitat and around 80 years old in captivity.
African Elephant Baby
Scientific & Common Names
Kingdom - Animalia
Phylum - Chordata
Class - Mammalia
Order - Proboscidea
Family - Elephantidae
Subfamily - Elephantinae
Genus - Loxodonta
Species - L. africana, L. cyclotis
Common Name - African Elephant, African Bush Elephant (L. africana), African Forest Elephant (L. cyclotis)
African elephants have a thick gray hide, large ears, tusks and a long trunk that is used for smelling, lifting objects and performing other tasks. They are the biggest land animals in the world. Adult African elephants weigh between 5,000 and 14,000 pounds and measure between 8 and 13 feet high.
African elephants do not follow a particular breeding season, although they tend to reproduce more during the rainy season and less during droughts. Females go through a gestation period that lasts for around 22 months, after which they give birth to one or two calves. The calves are able to smell, see and walk not long after they are born, and they are taken care of by their mother and other females in the herd. Females stay with the herd throughout their life, while males leave when they reach reproductive maturity between 10 and 12 years of age.
African elephants maintain strong social ties within their herd. Female elephants form herds that are led by a matriarch, which is typically the oldest member of the herd. Herds range in size and can have up to 200 elephants, including adults and offspring. Adult females guard and care for all of the herd’s calves. Male elephants sometimes form bachelor herds after setting out on their own after reaching reproductive maturity. African elephants are usually out during the day, although some herds become mostly nocturnal if they wander near human territories.
African elephants are found in fragmented parts of their historical range. Regional populations are no longer found in Gambia, Burundi and Mauritania. It was previously thought that there was only a single species of living African elephant, but recent genetic studies have revealed that the forest dwelling L. cyclotis and the larger L. africana. A form of "pygmy" elephant dwelling in the Congo River Basin is thought to be a smaller morph of the African forest elephant.
African elephants are currently listed as vulnerable. The main threat they face is from poachers who hunt them for their ivory tusks, which are then sold on the black market. Other threats include being hunted for meat and facing increased habitat loss and fragmentation due to human expansion. Conservation efforts include enforcing laws against poaching and providing habitat management.