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

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Elephant

Conservation Status:

Vulnerable

  • Native to 37 African countries
  • Approximately 415,000 remain
  • Yearly 8% of population is poached

Quick Facts

Scientific name

Loxodonta africana

Weight

2,000 to 6,100 kilograms (about 2 to 7 tons)

Size

Up to 4 meters (13 feet)

Life span

60 to 70 years

Habitat

Open and closed savanna, grasslands, and arid deserts

Diet

Herbivorous

Gestation

About 22 months

Predators

Humans and occasionally lions or hyenas

Habitat

Where do elephants live?

They will live in almost any habitat that provides plentiful food and water. Their populations are scattered throughout the savannas of sub-Saharan Africa. About 70 percent of their range exists in protected land.

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

Physical Characteristics

What are African savanna elephants?

They are the world’s largest terrestrial mammal. There are two recognized subspecies of African elephants: the savanna (bush) 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 that point downward.

Behavior & Diet

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

Their trunk is a long nose that is used for breathing, smelling, drinking, trumpeting, and grabbing objects. Their trunks are also a grooming tool. Grooming consists of using their trunks to cover themselves with mud or water to maintain hydration. They 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 these large animals love to eat. Elephants’ diet consists of grasses, fruits, roots, and bark, and spend the majority of their day roaming across large distances foraging for food. They can eat up to 136 kilograms (300 pounds) of food and drink 113 to 190 liters (30 to 50 gallons) of water in one day.

Elephants are friendly.

Much like humans, they are social creatures that live in small family groups that usually consist of an older matriarch and several generations of female relatives. Males are typically solitary once matured 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.

Gallery
  • 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
Challenges

Humans are poaching elephants for their ivory tusks.

The large tusks on either side of their face—used for foraging for food and water—have long been desired by people. The ivory trade is driven by consumer demand for products made from elephant tusks and supplied by a sophisticated international network of traffickers. Poachers kill this iconic species for its ivory tusks, which are then sold and made into anything from jewelry and crafts to musical instruments to religious objects. At current poaching rates, elephant populations may be extinct in the wild within our lifetimes.

Elephants have slow rates of reproduction.

They have longer pregnancies than almost any other mammal. They carry their calves for about 22 months, with cows usually bearing only one calf every three to six years. Their regeneration rate averages 5 to 6 percent annually, compared to the 8 to 9 percent poaching rates, resulting in a net loss in population numbers. Elephants are threatened with extinction as they are unable to sustain current population numbers if the high rate of poaching continues unabated.

Solutions

Our solutions to protecting and conserving the African savanna 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 communities—to set land aside specifically for wildlife use, and in some cases, purchase land to set it aside for conservation. Habitat management poses a long-term threat to elephant population well-being. AWF is working in countries like Zambia to create protected spaces. To allow the elephant to move safely and freely, we worked with Zambia’s Sekute Chiefdom to create the Sekute Conservation Area, and in exchange for protecting wild spaces for wildlife, AWF rebuilt the Lupani School.

  • Empower community members to protect the 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, Scouts are also instrumental in deterring poachers. As a result, AWF can 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. 11 of the 14 of the elephant populations AWF works with are now stable or increasing.

  • Raising awareness - China bans ivory trade.

    The remaining 415,000 of Africa’s savanna elephants have new hope for their future with China’s official announcement to shut down its domestic ivory trade - making it illegal to sell and buy ivory in the country. Since 2012, AWF has worked to fight the demand for elephant ivory in China and across the world, along with partner Wildaid and celebrity ambassadors like former NBA star, Yao Ming, actor Jackie Chan, and Virgin Group founder Sir Richard Branson. These celebrity public awareness campaigns shed light on the ivory trade’s impact on populations and demonstrate the true horrors of elephant poaching. Since they first launched, public awareness around ivory products has increased, and tolerance for ivory products is decreasing. China’s commitment to implementing the ban on domestic ivory trade in 2018 will contribute to curbing poaching and the illegal trade in wildlife products.

Projects

Will you donate to help us protect elephants?

With your support, AWF can continue working on vital programs like training and equipping rangers, deploying sniffer and detection dogs, setting aside protected areas for elephant habitats, and educating the public on the atrocities of wildlife crime. Donate today to support wildlife conservation and ensure Africa’s elephants do not become endangered.

  • 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...

    Read more
    All Projects

  • 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...

    Read more
    All Projects

  • 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’...

    Read more
    All Projects

  • 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...

    Read more
    All Projects

  • AWF's Machenje Fishing Lodge in Zambia
    Machenje Fishing Lodge
    A tourist destination that benefits animals and people.

    A need to protect Africa’s largest elephant population.

    The Kazungula District of Zambia, the location of the Sekute Chiefdom, lies...

    Read more
    All Projects

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