African Elephant

African Elephant
African Elephant
Jeff Foott/DCI

The African elephant, the largest living land mammal, is distinguished from the smaller Indian elephant (Elephas maximus) by its size and huge ears, which it flaps to cool off and to keep bugs out of its eyes.

The trunk, an extension of its upper lip and nose, is used for activities such as drinking, bathing, smelling, greeting, grasping, and bringing food — grasses, leaves, and fruit — to its mouth.


It can eat more than three hundred pounds (135 kg) of food in a day.

Cows and their calves live together in a family unit led by an older cow, the matriarch.

Males are mostly solitary, meeting with females to mate.

Hunted for centuries for their ivory tusks — elongated incisors — these elephants are now protected, but poaching and habitat loss still threaten them.


Animal Facts

Name: African Elephant (Loxodonta africana)

Family: Elephantidae (Elephants)


Range: Sub-Saharan Africa, excluding southern Africa

Habitat: Savanna in east and south; forest in west

Diet: Bark, fruit, grass and leaves

Head and Body Length: 20 to 25 feet (6 to 7.5 m)

Tail Length: 3.3 to 4.3 feet (1 to 1.3 m)

Shoulder Height: 10 to 11.5 feet (3 to 3.5 m)

Weight: 8,000 to 13,000 pounds (3,600 to 5,900 kg)

Life Cycle: Mating year-round; gestation about 730 days, one calf born

Description: Gray, sparsely haired skin; large ears; long, forward-curving ivory tusks; long, muscular trunk with two finger-like projections at the tip

Conservation Status: Endangered

Major Threat: Poaching; habitat loss

What Can I Do?: Visit Save the Elephants and the Living With Elephants Foundation for information on how you can help.