The African Elephant: Everything Your Need to Know

The largest animals on earth are African elephants. They roam 37 nations in Africa with their herds. They can be identified by their trunk, which they use for both communication and day-to-day survival. Additionally, they might radiate extra heat thanks to their big ears. African elephants’ upper incisor teeth evolve into tusks during the course of their lives.

The savanna (or bush) elephant and the forest elephant are the two different species of elephant found in Africa. The tusks of savanna elephants bend outward, and they are larger than forest elephants. Forest elephants are smaller and darker, and their tusks are straighter and downward-pointing. The size and shape of the skull and skeleton differ between the two species as well.


The African elephant or “ellie” as we’re fond of calling it, is the largest animals walking the Earth. They can be found across 36 countries in Africa, however the majority of their population is now located in Southern Africa, namely Botswana, Zimbabwe and Zambia. The African elephant thrives in lowland, montane forests, flood plains, woodland and savanna.

Herd Behavior

The African elephant, much like the African wild dog, is a social animal that thrives when living in a group. These groups are known as a herd. A herd can range from 8–100 individuals. The size usually depends on the terrain and family size. An African female African elephant will remain in a herd till the day they die, whereas the males leave the herd when they reach maturity (from the age of 10 to 19 years old). Bull elephants, who are between the ages of 30 and 35 years old, will leave the herd to live a more solitary life. They are often called bachelors because they will form small “herds” of their own with other bulls. They then go through a period of musth. Bull elephants that experience musth exhibit extremely aggressive behaviour and experience a significant increase in their reproductive hormones. An elephant’s testosterone levels during musth might be up to 60 times higher than they are at other times.

The African elephant is very loyal to its family members and will go to great lengths to protect the interest of the herd. Calves are especially attached to their mothers and make sure they are never far away from her.

In a herd, males are in the minority. There is usually a matriarch, who is the oldest in the herd. When it comes to the African elephant herd, the term “girl power” is definitely relevant. The matriarch is known for being experienced and knowledgeable, with the know-how to guide the herd through hardship. She leads them to food and water sources and even teaches the calves how to protect themselves against predators. While the herd is dominated by females, the males keep a watchful eye over their young.

Female elephants are ready to become mums around the age of 14–16 years old. They are only able to carry one calf at a time and can give birth to at least 12 calves throughout their lives. Female elephants have a long gestation period of 22 months, just under two years.

Once an African elephant mates, they very rarely stray from their partners, although this is possible. Elephants are good at developing strong bonds with their family members. They can establish lifelong relationships and deeply mourn the loss of loved ones and calves that do not survive their first few months. They also visit the place where family members or newborns died and stay for quite some time. 

African elephants are herbivores, which means majority of their diet consists of grass, fruit, barks and leaves. They can consume over 300 pounds of food a day and up to 50 gallons of water.

The African elephant easily spends over 15 hours a day foraging.  These majestic beasts spend little time sleeping and travel considerable distances in search of the copious amounts of food needed to maintain their large bodies.

Physical Characteristics

The African elephant can be identified by its long front legs and enormous, heat-radiating ears. Aside from its majestic, flexible trunk, other striking characteristics include its ever-expanding tusks, which are present in both males and females; the tough, wrinkled skin, which aids in the preservation of moisture in arid African circumstances; and its wrinkled skin.

The African elephants trunk is quite significant.

The elephant’s trunk is a fused extension of its top lip and snout. At the end of the trunk are opposable “fingers” that can be used to grasp small items. The number of these fingers is one way to distinguish between the various types of elephants; Asian and African elephants both have one finger. Due to the strength and dexterity of these fingers, the elephant can pick up a tiny peanut, crack open the shell, and then consume the whole nut.

The African elephant’s trunk is up to 2 metres long. The trunk is able to sustain its own weight as well as anything it picks up. It is made up of over 150,000 different muscle fibre bundles which make up its interior anatomy. Since there are no bones in the trunk, the “fingers” are supported by cartilage rings.

Life Cycle

A single calf is typically born after a gestation of 22 months. Although they may continue nursing for more than 6 years, young elephants wean themselves after 6 to 18 months. At puberty, male elephants separate from their original herd and begin to create more looser partnerships with other males.


Elephants can live up to 70 years, and females are typically reproductive between the ages of 25 and 45. Males must be 20 years old in order to compete successfully for mating.

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Threats to Survival

Elephants in Africa are still being poached in big numbers even though the worldwide trade in ivory has been outlawed. Although their meat and skin are frequently traded, their ivory tusks are the most in demand. Elephants are killed in large numbers every year for their tusks.

Elephants Drinking

The CITES (Convention on International Commerce in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) restriction on trade in 1989 enabled certain populations to replenish, especially in areas where elephants were given sufficient protection.


How Much Does and African Elephant Weigh?

Elephant bulls can reach heights of 4 metres and weigh up to 7 tonnes, while their female counterparts can only reach the weights of 3.5 – 4 tonnes.

What do African Elephants Eat?

Elephants consume bark, grasses, fruits, and roots. Up to 300 pounds of food can be consumed by an adult elephant in a single day. These restless beasts spend little time sleeping and travel considerable distances in search of the copious amounts of food needed to maintain their enormous bodies.

Are African Elephants Endangered?

The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species now lists the African elephant (Loxodonta cyclotis) as Critically Endangered and the African savanna elephant (Loxodonta africana) as Endangered as a result of population losses over several decades brought on by ivory poaching and habitat destruction.

How Many African Elephants are Left?

The current estimation of African elephants in the wild is totalled at 497,000 wild elephants. The three types of elephants that currently inhabit the planet are the Asian elephant, the African elephant, and the African bush elephant, often known as the savanna elephant.

They say an elephant never forgets!

Do you?