Latin Name - Loxodonta africana
Conservation Status - Vulnerable
Location - Savannas of sub-Saharan Africa
Diet - Herbivorous
Colour - Grey with ivory tusks
Height - Up to 4m (13 ft)
Weight - 2,000 to 6,100kg (about 2 to 7 tons)
Life Expectancy - 60 to 70 years
The African Elephant is the largest animal walking the Earth. Their herds wander through 37 countries in Africa. They are easily recognised by their trunk that is used for communication and handling objects. And their large ears allow them to radiate excess heat. Upper incisor teeth develop into tusks in African elephants and grow throughout their lifetime.
There are two subspecies of African elephants - the Savanna (or bush) elephant and the Forest elephant. Savanna elephants are larger than forest elephants, and their tusks curve outwards. In addition to being smaller, forest elephants are darker and their tusks are straighter and point downward. There are also differences in the size and shape of the skull and skeleton between the two subspecies.
How do they behave?
Elephants are social animals who tend to live in large groups. They are known for their ability to stay within “family” groups for the duration of their lives, and never stray far from their own mothers. It is definitely a case of “girl power” in the elephant world as the females and their young live in breeding herds, whilst the males are often cast aside.
There is usually one leader, the matriarch, who is often the oldest female, with the rest of the herd being made up of her own offspring. Being the oldest, she has the experience and knowledge that will ensure the survival of the herd in times of hardship. She will take them to water and food beyond their usual range, and teach them how to protect themselves from danger. Young females will usually stay with the herd, whilst the males leave the herd during adolescence (between the ages of 10 and 19 years) to lead the life of a more solitary bull elephant.
ARE THEY AT RISK?
Elephants were once abundant throughout Africa and Asia. During the twentieth century however wild populations saw a rapid decline as a result of an insatiable consumer demand for ivory from Asian markets. In the last forty years alone, African elephant populations have declined by over 70% from a population of over 1.3 million elephants that roamed Africa in 1979. Today, as few as 450,000 remain across both continents. There are three main threats to elephant populations:
- ILLEGAL WILDLIFE TRADE
- HABITAT LOSS AND DEGRADATION
- HUMAN-WILDLIFE CONFLICT