African Elephant Facts

Want to learn more about the world’s largest land animals? This page contains African elephant facts and information. If you enjoy learning about this (usually) gentle giant, then visit our African Animals page and find out about more amazing animals.

Online Zoo
Click to see more animals in the Active Wild Online Zoo

African Elephant Information

African Elephants are the world's largest land animal. These gentle giants can be distinguished from their Indian counterparts by their huge ears. African elephants can reach heights of 13 feet (4 meters)  at the shoulder. They can weigh as much as 14,000 pounds (6,350 kilograms).

There are two species of African elephant: the African Bush (or Savanna) elephant and the African Forest Elephant. (Until recently, scientists considered Bush Elephants and Forest Elephants to be subspecies, rather than separate species in their own right.)

African Elephant With Baby
An African elephant female with her calf.

African Elephant Features

Their huge ears help keep African elephants cool in the African sunshine by radiating heat. Perhaps the best known feature of elephants are their multi-functional long trunks, which can be used for smelling, breathing, trumpeting, drinking and grabbing things.

Both male and female African elephants have long upper incisor teeth which develop into ivory tusks which they can use to dig for food and water, and also strip bark from trees. Males will also use their tusks during fights with other males.

You can get an idea just how big and powerful African elephants are in the video below:

African Elephant Facts: Where do African Elephants live?

No big surprise, but African elephants can be found wandering their way through 37 African countries, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa and the rain forests of central and west Africa. A small population exist further north in the Sahel desert of Mali. Forest elephants are smaller than Savannah elephants and are uniquely adapted to the forest habitat found in the Congo Basin.

African Elephant Habitat

African elephants inhabit tropical and sub-tropical broadleaf forests, flooded grasslands and savannahs as well as Miombo woodlands and Acacia savannahs.

African elephants have a strong impact on the habitats they inhabit, and can help to make them suitable for other species. In the forests, it is estimated that 30% of tree species benefit from dispersal and germination via elephants.

What Do African Elephants Eat?

African elephants roam vast distances, foraging as they go. They eat fruit, grasses, bark and roots in huge quantities, consuming up to 300 pounds (136 kilograms) per day. They will also consume 30 to 50 gallons of water a day.

African Elephant Population

Group Of African Elephants
African elephants are rated 'Vulnerable' by the IUCN.

The African elephant population is estimated at around 470,000 individuals, however, numbers in the last century were estimated to be between 3 and 5 million. Elephant pregnancies are the longest of any mammals, a full 22 months. Females (cows) generally have a single calf every 2 to 4 years. At birth, baby elephants already measure 3 feet (1 meter) in height and weight a massive 200 pounds (91 kilograms).

Female and young elephants live and travel in groups called herds led by an older matriarch female, while males (bulls) are more likely to be found on their own, or in a loose ‘bachelor’ herd. In the wild,

Are African Elephants Endangered?

African elephants are listed as vulnerable on the IUCN Red List. In the 1980s, intensive hunting resulted in the loss of up to 80% of some herds, and 100,000 elephants every year. The ivory trade is the biggest problem facing wild African elephants today. African elephant tusks are made of ivory and many have been killed illegally by poachers who want to sell the ivory.

Due to expansion of human populations, the range of African elephant habitat has shrunk dramatically. Between 1979 and 2007, the range shrank from just over 3 million square miles to just over 1 million square miles.

Organisation such as the International Elephant Foundation have been set up to help save elephants.

Top Ten African Elephant Facts

  1. The tip of the African elephant trunk has two opposable extensions which act like fingers.
  2. Elephants are born with ‘baby tusks’ which fall out and are replaced with permanent adult tusks which grown throughout life.
  3. On average, elephants can here calls of others from 2.5 miles (4 kilometres away).
  4. Elephants care for the wounded and grieve the dead.
  5. To greet returning friends, elephants spin in circles, flap their ears and trumpet.
  6. Savanna elephants have tusks that curve, forest elephants have tusk pointing straight downward.
  7. Elephants a very wrinkly and have sparse hair across the body.
  8. African elephants can live to be 70 years old in the wild.
  9. There are more than 40,000 muscles and tendons in the elephant trunk.
  10. The scientific name of the African elephant is Loxodonta africana. Loxo is from the Greek for oblique sided, and donta is tooth.

Enjoyed these African elephant facts? Want to find out about some more awesome animals? Check out the Active Wild African Animals page.