Humans are the biggest threat to the world’s largest land mammal

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Conservation Status:


  • Native to 37 African countries
  • Approximately 415K remain
  • Yearly, 8% of population is poached

Quick Facts

Scientific name

Loxodonta africana


3.5 to 6.5 tn.
(7,000 to 13,200 lb.)


Up to 11 ft. tall

Life span

60 to 70 years


Dense forests to open plains




About 22 months




Where do elephants live?

Elephants will live in almost any habitat that provides plentiful food and water. Populations are scattered throughout sub-Saharan Africa and the rain forests of Central and West Africa.

Tags: Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, DRC, Kenya, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe, East Africa, Southern Africa, West/Central Africa, Congo, Kilimanjaro, Regional Parc W, Samburu, Virunga, Zambezi, Elephant View Africa | Habitat

Physical Characteristics

What are elephants?

They are the world’s largest terrestrial mammal. There are two recognized subspecies of elephants: the savanna (bush) elephant and the forest elephant. Savanna elephants are larger than forest elephants and their tusks curve out, while forest elephants are darker and have tusks that are straighter and point downward.

Behavior & Diet

Elephants have a very long nose, which also doubles as an arm.

An elephant’s trunk is a long nose that is used for breathing, smelling, drinking, trumpeting, and grabbing objects. African elephants have two fingerlike extensions on the tips of their trunks that are used for holding onto small objects. They also use their trunks to exhibit affection, by frequently touching and caressing one another.

They spend a lot of time eating.

It’s no great surprise that these large animals love to eat. Elephants’ diets consist of grasses, fruits, roots, and bark, and they roam across large distances foraging for food. They can eat up to 300 pounds (136 kilograms) of food and drink 30 to 50 gallons of water in one day.

Elephants are friendly.

Much like humans, elephants are social creatures that live in small family groups, usually consisting of an older matriarch and several generations of female relatives. Males are typically solitary but may live in small groups of three or four bulls. They take care of weak or injured members and even appear to grieve over dead companions.

  • Elephant Greeting
  • Elephant Trunk-five
  • Elephant Billy Dodson
  • Elephant Billy Dodson
  • Elephant Billy Dodson
  • Elephant Billy Dodson
  • Elephant Craig R. Sholley
  • Elephant Joe Dodson
  • Elephant Robyn Gianni

Elephant ivory is coveted by humans.

The large tusks on either side of the elephant’s face—used to forage for food and water—have long been desired by people. Poachers kill elephants for their ivory, which is then sold and made into anything from jewelry to religious objects. At current poaching rates, elephant populations may not survive 10 years in the wild.

They have slow rates of reproduction.

Elephants have longer pregnancies than almost any other mammal. They carry their calves for 22 months, and cows usually only bear one calf every two to four years. Reproduction rates are not sufficient to sustain population numbers at the current poaching rates.


Our solutions to protecting and conserving the elephant:

  • Give elephants room to roam.

    Wildlife corridors are large sections of land that allow wildlife to move from one national park to another—and even from one country to another. African Wildlife Foundation works with people on all levels—from governments to individuals in villages—to set land aside specifically for wildlife use, and in some cases, purchase land to set it aside for conservation. In Zambia, for example, AWF is working with communities in the Sekute Chiefdom to create the Sekute Conservation Area so that elephants can move safely and freely. In exchange for leaving land open for wildlife, AWF rebuilt the Lupani School.

  • Train community members to take care of elephants.

    AWF works with communities who live in close quarters with wildlife to recruit, train, and equip wildlife scouts. Scouts monitor elephants and can prevent them from destroying crops, thereby preventing farmers from viewing them as pests, and they are instrumental in deterring poachers. As a result, AWF is able to ensure enhanced protection of wildlife in these regions, like the Osupuko and Kitome Conservancies in Kenya, as well as provide additional employment opportunities to local communities.


Will you show elephants your support?

With your help, AWF can continue working on vital programs like providing training to, and equipping, wildlife scouts; setting aside protected areas for elephant habitats; and educating the public on the atrocities of wildlife crime. Donate for a cause that will help with wildlife conservation and ensure the elephant does not become an endangered species. 

  • Mau Forest Peter Chira
    Mau Reforestation
    Planting trees in a critical forested ecosystem

    Kenya’s ecological health is in danger.

    The ecological health of the Mau Forest Complex in Kenya’s Rift Valley region is in imminent danger. Deforestation and...

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  • Amboseli Chullya Corridor Billy Dodson
    Amboseli-Chyulu Wildlife Corridor
    Connecting two invaluable ecosystems

    Amboseli­-Chyulu Corridor is threatened by agricultural expansion.

    The historic wildlife dispersal area and corridor that extends from Amboseli National Park to Chyulu...

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  • Sekute Conservation Area AWF
    Sekute Conservation Area
    Community-wide protection of Zambia’s wildlife

    Agriculture and population growth threaten wildlife in Zambia. 

    Historically, wildlife roamed freely around the Sekute Chiefdom in southern Zambia. But, in recent...

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  • Cameroon Elephant Anti-Poaching Kathleen Fitzgerald
    Cameroon Elephant Anti-Poaching
    Protecting the elephants of Faro National Park

    Faro National Park under threat.

    In February 2012, heavily armed poaching gangs from Sudan massacred more than 50% of the elephants in northern Cameroon’s Bouba N’...

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  • Ol Pejeta Conservancy
    Livestock management and conservation in Kenya.

    Kenya’s herds are creating hurdles.

    Boasting a scenic landscape and extensive wildlife, northern Kenya supports a critical population of wild dogs, the second-largest...

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