Looming large on most people's safari wishlist, the African elephant is not only the biggest living land animal, it's also a giant in terms of conservation icons. Around 30% of all African elephants were killed for their ivory between 2007 and 2014. The poaching crisis continues and today there are thought to be only 450,000 of these magnificent creatures left in the wild. Widespread across sub-Saharan Africa, the two species of African elephant (savanna and forest) are found in 37 countries – but their populations are becoming increasingly fragmented due to habitat loss, hunting and elephant-human conflict.
Weight 4-7 tonnes
Did you know... an adult African elephant needs to eat about 160kg of food every day.
RANGE & HABITAT
The African savannah elephant is found in a range of habitats from grasslands and wetlands to arid environments, such as the Namib Desert. The smaller African forest elephant (L. cyclotis) is found in Central and West African rainforests.
The African elephant is listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Threats include poaching (for ivory and meat), habitat loss and human-elephant conflict when herds stray into rural areas or farmland.
TALES FROM THE WILD AFRICAN ELEPHANT
"There are an estimated 15-20,000 elephant in Tanzania’s Ruaha National Park. We saw lone bulls wading through baobab-studded savannah, carving silvery channels through the grassland, their ears flapping like loose sails on a tallship. Breeding herds also fanned out across the plains, scything the tall grass with their endlessly swinging trunks. But it was on the sandy riverbeds that the elephants held us rapt. The rituals of feeding and resting were enriched with a broader repertoire of behaviours: the matriarch digging a hole from which to drink; adolescent males entwining trunks and jostling one another; a youngster squealing – presumably with delight – as it charged through the shallows; other juveniles rolling and splashing in the water… Ruaha works for elephants. Not only is the national park and its buffer zones big enough to support a large population, but there’s also space to accommodate seasonal movement of the herds. Ruaha’s sheer size and inaccessibility might also safeguard its elephants from poachers."