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African Elephant: Is This Species Endangered?

Elephants are the largest land mammals and migratory species on the planet. They weigh in at around two hundred sixty to two thousand pounds and can reach a height of six and a half to eleven feet.

  • Status: Vulnerable
  • Known as: African Elephant, African Forest Elephant, African Bush Elephant.
  • Estimated numbers left in the wild: 300,000 to 415,000.


African elephant looking at the camera, front view

African elephants are the largest subspecies, with males growing much larger than females. While they may look slow and docile, elephants are pretty agile and can reach speeds of up to twenty-five miles per hour.

Anatomy and Appearance

Occupying the role of the world’s largest current land animal, the African elephant weighs up to 5.5 tonnes and stands 3.3 to 3.96 meters tall in the case of large males. Female elephants stand 2.8 meters tall and weigh 3.7 tonnes on average.

Highly distinctive in appearance, these giant beasts have pillar-like legs, large heat-radiating ears, a prehensile trunk, leathery grey skin that includes only a very sparse dusting of hairs, and two ivory tusks adapted from their ancestors’ incisors.


African bush elephants are found in many of the nations of Africa south of the Sahara, including those in West, East, and Southern Africa.

The African forest elephant, by contrast, is limited to the Congo River Basin. Bush elephants are found in open woodland, savannah, scrub, and even deserts. In contrast, forest elephants prefer dense forests near West African rivers, with at least 50% of the surviving animals living in Gabon.

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African Elephant Diet and Nutrition

African elephant eating grasses and standing in the water

African elephants of both species are highly intelligent and gregarious herbivores. Adult elephants need to eat around 135 kilograms of food daily to sustain their enormous bodies.

This food is taken in the form of herbs, tree leaves, and tree bark. Elephants range widely in search of food, and their dung is crucial to spreading the seeds of many species into new habitats.

These animals can be rather destructive in their quest for food, pushing over trees if the leaves are out of reach and using their powerful trunks to rip apart other plants to obtain the edible parts.

The elephant’s trunk includes around 100,000 muscles, giving it immense skill and great power. It can be used for amazing manipulations with the twin “fingers” at its tip or as a powerful tool for foraging, drinking water, using tools, and even disciplining rowdy youngsters.

See Related: These Are 13 of the Longest Living Animals on Earth

African Elephant Mating Habits

2 African elephants facing each other. One elephant has its trunk up

The mating habits of African elephants are fascinating. Bulls reach sexual maturity at around twelve years old and start to participate in “mush by,” a periodic condition characterized by increased testosterone levels and aggressive behavior.

Musth lasts for several months and usually occurs every three to five years. In musth, bulls will roam the savanna in search of receptive females.

When a bull finds a suitable mate, he will stay with her for several days or weeks, guarding her against other males. The couple will mate several times during this period. After the mating is complete, the bull will move on in search of another mate.

Females reach sexual maturity at around ten years old. They typically give birth to a single calf every two to four years. Calves are born weighing about 200 pounds and can stand and walk independently within a few hours.

See Related: List of Animals That Mate for Life

Behavior and Lifespan

Bull elephants tend to be solitary, while cows form herds and cooperate in protecting their calves. Calf elephants are born after 22 months and are born with a weight of 90 kilograms. Whether solitary or in a herd, Elephants move over large distances looking for food and water.

African elephants are intelligent animals that have been shown to use tools, communicate with one another, and show signs of self-awareness. They are also social creatures, living in herds of several hundred individuals.

Elephants are very social animals. They live in family groups called herds. The African elephant family or herd is led by a matriarch, an adult female elephant. The rest of the herd comprises her daughters, granddaughters, and other related females. Males usually leave the herd when they reach puberty and live a solitary life.

They enjoy water immensely, drinking close to 200 liters daily to stay hydrated and squirting the liquid over themselves with their trunks.

Elephants are complex creatures with many subtle emotions, and their brains show as much intricacy as those of humans. Their lifespan in the wild is limited to 60 or 70 years, and sometimes less when their final set of molars wears out and the fantastic beasts starve to death. Captive elephants can live into their 80s thanks to human care.

Baby Elephant Pool Party: Cute Elephants Playing in Water 4K

Role in the Ecosystem

African Elephants are one of the most influential animals in the ecosystems of Africa. They are herbivores, which means that they eat mostly plants.

It is essential because they help spread seeds and fruits around the forest, which allows new plants to grow. Elephants also play a vital role in keeping the environment clean by eating dead leaves and branches.

If African elephants become extinct, the ecological balance of their habitats will be disrupted. It could lead to an increase in the population of certain herbivores that elephants typically prey on, which could have a negative impact on the ecosystem.

Additionally, without elephants to disperse seeds and create clearings in the forest, trees could become overgrown and impede the growth of other plants and animals.

They play an essential role in their ecosystems, and their loss would be detrimental to the surrounding environment. It is therefore critical that we work to protect these magnificent creatures.

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African Elephant Species

African Savanna Elephant

A herd of African elephants walking towards the camera

African savanna elephants, known as African bush elephants, are the largest living land animals on Earth. They can weigh up to two tons and be up to 10 feet tall at the shoulder.

Savanna elephants have two ivory tusks that can grow up to ten feet long. These tusks are used to dig for food, fight off predators, and move objects.

African savanna elephants are social creatures that live in family groups. Female African elephants and their young live in Elephant herds of up to 30, led by a matriarch.

Males leave the herd when they reach puberty and live solitary lives or in small groups with other males. They once ranged across the continent, but their population of African savanna elephants decreased by about 60% in the last decade due to poaching and habitat loss.

African Forest Elephant

African Forest Elephants are the smaller cousins of the African Elephant. These African elephant species are found in the dense forests of Africa, where they eat leaves, twigs, and fruits from trees.

African Forest Elephants are very important to the ecology of their forest habitat, as they help disperse seeds and create pathways for other animals.

See Related: Asian Elephant

African Elephant Facts

African elephant and her baby walking towards the camera

Here are some of the fun facts you need to know about these African elephant species

  • These species are the largest land animals on the planet.
  • They can weigh up to two tons and grow to over eleven feet tall.
  • Their trunk can pick up objects that weigh up to 600 pounds.
  • They have two incisors in their upper jaw that continue to grow throughout their lifetime, and they can weigh up to two hundred pounds.
  • These gentle giants are herbivores, and their diet consists mostly of grasses, leaves, and twigs.
  • They are social animals, and they live in herds of up to thirty elephants.
  • The herds are led by a matriarch, an older female elephant.
  • These animals are capable of swimming, and they have been known to travel up to sixteen miles per day.

See Related: Difference Between African and Asian Elephants: A Comprehensive Comparison

Conservation Status

Elephant with young baby in the old forest, evening light

African elephants are vulnerable on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. The main threats to their survival are poaching and habitat loss. Numbers have declined by around 70% in the last three decades, and there are now estimated to be just 415,000 African elephants remaining in the wild.


Many threats to the African Elephant push these species to face extinction. Here are the threats to teh African elephant populations:

  • Habitat Loss: As human populations grow, more and more land is being developed, which destroys elephants’ natural habitat. Habitat loss affects African elephant populations because they need a lot of space to roam and need a lot of food. When elephant habitat is destroyed, they have to move to other areas, often being dangerous. They may also have to compete with other animals for food, which can be difficult since elephants are so big.
  • Human-Elephant Conflict: Human-elephant conflict is also a major issue. As humans and elephants compete for space, they often conflict with each other, which can lead to the death of both humans and elephants.
  • Poaching: Poaching is one of the biggest threats to African elephants. Poachers often kill elephants for their ivory tusks, which are used to make various products. Habitat loss is another major threat to these animals. Adult elephants are more or less immune to predation by lions, hyenas, and other carnivores of Africa but are heavily targeted and hunted by humans, who crave their ivory tusks. Around 70% of poached ivory is sold to buyers in China, which is one of the world’s most active purchasers of rare animal parts. Hunting for international ivory trade and illegal ivory trade has occurred since at least the later 19th century, but modern weaponry allowed extreme destruction of elephants during the mid to late 20th century.
  • Disease: Disease is another threat to African elephants. They are susceptible to a variety of diseases, many of which are deadly. For example, elephant endotheliotropic herpesvirus (EEHV) is a virus that can cause fatal hemorrhagic disease in young elephants. A variety of other diseases can also affect elephants, including tuberculosis, rabies, and anthrax.
  • Low Birth Rate: African elephants have a low birth rate, with only one calf being born every two to four years. This is due to their long gestation period of 22 months and the fact that they only give birth to one calf at a time.
  • Predators: The African elephant population has declined due to lions and hyenas’ predation. These predators kill young elephants, which reduces the overall population size. This is a major concern, as the African elephant is endangered. Efforts must be made to protect these animals from predation to preserve elephant populations.

See Related: Causes of Extinction you Need to Know About

Conservation Efforts

close up portrait of an elephant's eye, tusk and trunk taken after sunset

Strict bans on ivory trading have slowed the impact of poaching, but elephants are still at serious risk of extinction if additional measures are not taken.

Major international conservation organizations such as the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, or IUCN, are working actively to promote better human-elephant relations to reduce the risk of future conflict.

See Related: World’s Largest National Parks


Amboseli Trust for Elephants

Amboseli Trust for Elephants logo

Amboseli Trust for Elephants started and is still running the world’s longest study of African elephants to protect and conserve the species in Kenya. It has ensured the survival of the elephants and the ecosystem in Amboseli National Park for more than three decades.

Amboseli Trust for Elephants is a Kenyan non-profit organization founded in 2001 by Richard Leakey and his wife, Meave. The trust’s goal is to promote the conservation of African elephants and their habitats. Amboseli Trust for Elephants operates three primary program areas: elephant conservation, community outreach, and research.

Call from the Wild

Call from the Wild is an organization started by the Frankfurt Zoological Society, which supports a variety of national parks throughout Africa to protect different endangered species, including elephants.

David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust

David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust Logo

The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust works to protect African elephants and black rhinos in Kenya through nursery and hand-rearing, anti-poaching projects, de-snaring, and education programs.

The trust’s primary goals are to protect elephants from poaching and provide rehabilitation and sanctuary for orphaned elephants. In addition to these core objectives, the trust also engages in research and education initiatives to promote a greater understanding and appreciation of Africa’s wildlife.

David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation

David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation Logo

David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation sells artwork to fund breeding programs, anti-poaching projects, fieldwork, and education programs to protect elephants in South Africa and Namibia.

The foundation supports a wide variety of projects that work to protect elephants from poaching and habitat loss and provide care for orphaned and injured elephants. One such project is the DSWF Elephant Orphanage in Zambia, which provides a haven for abandoned and orphaned elephants.

International Elephant Foundation

International Elephant Foundation logo

International Elephant Foundation is an American organization founded by a corporation of individuals and institutions to protect elephants in Africa and Asia. They partner with local communities, governments, and other organizations to protect elephants and their habitats. The foundation also supports research on elephants, including their behavior, ecology, and genetics.

Wildlife Conservation Society

Wildlife Conservation Society logo

Wildlife Conservation Society was formed in 1895 with the aim of protecting 25 percent of the world’s biodiversity by promoting the importance of protecting wildlife and their habitats. WCS has five zoos in New York. They work in more than 90 countries worldwide and help protect over 1,200 species of animals. One of the organization’s main goals is to conserve elephants.

World Wildlife Fund

World Wildlife Fund logo

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) is dedicated to conserving African elephants. They work to protect these animals from poaching and other threats to their survival. The fund also helps to provide safe habitats for elephants and educates people about the importance of these creatures.

African elephants are an important part of the ecosystem, and their loss would be devastating to the environment.

WWF works tirelessly to keep African elephants safe, but we need your help. You can support WWF by donating to their cause or spreading the word about the importance of elephant conservation.

Final Thoughts

African elephant close up standing next to small trees

Elephants are some of the most majestic creatures on Earth, but they’re also vulnerable to extinction. It is largely due to Elephant poaching and habitat loss, which conservation organizations are working hard to address.

If you want to help support elephant conservation efforts, there are various ways you can get involved. You can donate money or time to an organization, purchase products that support conservation efforts, or spread the word about the importance of elephant conservation.


How many African elephants are left in the world?

There are approximately 415,000 African elephants left in the world.

Why are African elephants vulnerable?

The main reasons African elephants are vulnerable are poaching and habitat loss. Elephants are killed for their ivory tusks, and their habitats are being destroyed by human activity such as farming and deforestation.

Will African elephants go extinct?

There is a real risk that African elephants will go extinct in the wild in our lifetime. poaching is the main threat to their survival, with over 20,000 elephants slaughtered for their ivory every year.

Habitat loss and fragmentation are also major threats and climate change. If we don’t take action now to save them, we could lose these magnificent creatures forever.

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