Learn about each kind of elephant! 

Updated: The different types of elephants

Did you know that there is more than one kind of elephant? According to wild elephant conservation experts, there are three different types of elephants - the African savannah elephant, African forest elephant and Asian elephant. 

Do not let their big ears and wrinkly skin fool you. These three types of elephants are special in their own way. Here is what you need to know about each type of elephant. 

The African bush elephant


The African bush elephant, also known as the African savannah elephant, can be found in grassy plains and bushlands of eastern and southern Africa. The countries with the largest African savannah elephant populations include: 

  • Botswana

  • Tanzania

  • Zimbabwe

  • Zenya 

  • Mozambique

  • South Africa 


The largest land mammal is the elephant. Elephant bush elephants are the largest out of the three kinds of elephants. These animals, on average, are 24 feet long, 13 feet tall and weigh up to 11 tons

Besides their enormous size, you can tell an African bush apart from other elephants by their tusks and ears. The tusks of these kinds of elephants are curved. Their ears are large and resemble the continent of Africa. 

Conservation status 

The conservation status of the African bush elephant is vulnerable. This means that they are likely to become “endangered” unless the circumstances that threaten their survival and reproduction improve. Some threats for African bush elephants in the wild are poaching, habitat loss and human-elephant conflict. 

The African forest elephant


The African forest elephant lives in the rainforests of west and central Africa. These animals are primarily found in countries of :

  • Gabon

  • The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)

  • Cameroon

  • The Central African Republic

  • Côte d'Ivoire

  • Liberia

  • Ghana  


There are two types of African elephants - the African forest elephant and African bush elephant. Wildlife elephant conservation experts have categorized these animals are two different species of elephants, not subspecies. 

Some differences between the two include size and appearance. The African forest elephant is smaller than the African bush elephant, reaching heights of 8 to 10 feet. On average, an adult of these animals weighs two to five tons. 

The African forest elephant has more oval shaped ears compared to those of the African bush elephant. Their tusks are also straighter and thinner that helps better maneuver through the rain forests.

Conservation status 

African forest elephants are categorized as endangered. This means that they are at high risk of becoming extinct. The African Wildlife Foundation states that the challenges these kinds of elephants face are poaching, lack of knowledge makes it hard to conserve and slow reproductive rates. 

The Asian elephant


The Asian elephant is found in the dry and wet forests and grasslands of 13 countries in South and Southeast Asia. There are three subspecies of Asian elephants - the Indian, Sumatran and Sri Lankan. 


Out of the three types of elephants, the Asian elephant is the smallest - standing at nine feet tall and weighing six tons. Besides their size, Asian elephants have a distinctive look to them. They have smaller and rounder ears than both kinds of African elephants. 

The male Asian elephant is the only one with large tusks. Also, their head shape is more of a twin-domed head while the African bush elephant’s head is rounder. 

Conservation status

Asian elephants are categorized as endangered. The World Fund for Nature states that there are between 40,000 to 50,000 Asian elephants left in the wild. Their biggest threats include habitat loss, fragmentation, poaching and human-elephant conflict. 

Do you want to help with wild elephant conservation?

Make a donation to For Elephants! Your donations will support our research to make more informed decisions about elephant conservation in zoos. You can make a donation by joining our “Herd of Heroes” or buying our apparel


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