African Elephant

(Loxodonta africana)


African Elephant IUCN VULNERABLE (VU)


Facts about this animal

There are two species of elephants in Africa: the larger and more widespread savannah elephant (Loxodonta africana african) and the forest elephant of West and Central Africa (Loxodonta africana cyclotis), which is smaller, has downward-pointed tusks, and smaller, rounder ears. A third species, the West African Elephant, has also been postulated. All elephants kept in zoos outside the forest elephants range are savannah elephants. There are visible tusks in both sexes, although in some areas a certain percentage of elephants is tuskless. The animals' trunks, unique among living mammals, are versatile, enabling elephants to manipulate tiny objects or tear down huge tree limbs. Wide, padded feet enable them to walk quietly. Large, flappable ears help these huge animals to cool off, although elephants often must retreat to the shade or water during the hottest part of the day.Females, subadults and youngsters live in cohesive herds. The matriarch, usually the oldest and largest female, sets the pace of the group's activities. Males leave herds at puberty and travel alone or in bachelor groups.


Elephants travel widely in search of food. Movements vary depending upon food availability. African elephants communicate with varied, low-frequency sounds which may travel over long distances. Gestation lasts 22 months, and usually only one calf is born. Newborn African elephants weigh about 110 kgs and their shoulder height is about 95 cm. Female African savanna elephants can usually breed by age ten and give birth to one young every four years. The life span of African elephants is up to 60 years. The African elephant differs from his Asian cousin in that the outline of the back is concave, the highest points of the silhouette being the withers and the loins, the receding forehead and the enormous ears.

Did you know?
That the African elephant is the largest terrestrial mammal? Male African elephants may reach a shoulder height of 4 m and their weight may exceed 7 tons.


Name (Scientific) Loxodonta africana
Name (English) African Elephant
Name (French) El├ęphant d'Afrique
Name (German) Afrikanischer Elefant
Name (Spanish) Elefante africano
Local names Afrikaans: Afrika-olifant, olifant
chiShona: nzou, zhou
isiNdebele, isiXhosa, isiZulu, siSwati: Indlovuki
Swahili: Tembo, ndovu
oshiVambo: oNdjamba
otjiHerero: Ndhlovu, oNdjou
seSotho, seTswana: Thloutshi
Venda: Ndou
Somali: Maroodi
CITES Status Appendix I and II with annotations
CMS Status Appendix II



Photo Copyright by



Range Subsaharan Africa
Habitat Rainforest (Loxodonta africana cyclotis), montane, dry, gallery forests, savannas, bushveld, grasslands, marshes, semideserts and deserts
Wild population The 2002 African Elephant Database (AED): 59,024 (probable), 99,813 (possible), and 99,307 (speculative) total numbers of elephants (EDGE 2011)
Zoo population 358 reported to ISIS (2009)

In the Zoo

African Elephant


How this animal should be transported

For air transport, Container Requirement 71 of the IATA Live Animals Regulations should be followed.


Road transport (according to the South African Standard SANS 10331): Transport in special crates under tranquillization. Special loading facilities are required and expert assistance from experienced nature conservation staff or a capture team is essential.


Find this animal on ZooLex


Photo Copyright by
Kathrin Marthaler, Switzerland

Why do zoos keep this animal

Elephants are among the most emotive megafauna species. They are one of the great attractions for zoo visitors, and thus an ideal flagship species for African wildlife and wild lands. Zoos have also the opportunity of addressing the problem of illegal trade in ivory and may succeed in influencing consumers.

Zoos may also keep elephants for animal welfare reasons by accepting to care for elephants kept under less suitable conditions in other zoos, circuses or by artists.