Species of Elephants

There are three species of elephants. Two are native to Africa and one, to India.

The African savanna elephant, found on the savannas of central Africa, reaches a height of 13 feet (3.9m) at the shoulder, and weighs up to 16,500 pounds (7,500 kg). The tusks, which both sexes have, grow to a length of up to 11.5 feet (3.5 m), and weigh about 225 pounds (100 kg) each. The ears may be 6.5 feet (2.0 m) long. The elephant has two fleshy lobes at the tip of its trunk, which help it pick up food. There are five toenails on each forefoot and three nails on each hindfoot.

The African forest elephant lives in central African forests and is rarely seen. It is similar to the savanna elephant and was not identified as a separate species until 2001. In general, it is smaller than the savanna elephant, reaching 8 feet (2.5 m) in height. The forest elephant's ears are more rounded and it has longer, straighter tusks.

The Indian elephant is found in parts of India, southeast Asia, and southern China. It is also smaller than the African savanna elephant and has smaller ears. It has five nails on each forefoot and four on each hind-foot. The trunk has one fleshy lobe at the tip. The Indian elephant is up to 9.8 feet (2.9m) high at the shoulder and weighs up to 14,700 pounds (6,700 kg). Only the bull has tusks; they are about 9 feet (2.7 m) long and weigh about 150 pounds (68 kg) each.

The Indian elephant is easily tamed and is used as a draft animal throughout southern Asia. It is also trained as a circus performer. Working elephants are captured from wild herds. They are taken by rope traps, by being driven into a stockade, or with the aid of a tame elephant. Training methods are similar to those used for horses, but the training period may last as long as 10 years. During this time, the same driver, or mahout, usually remains with the elephant.