Learn some interesting facts about the African forest elephant!

What you need to know about the African forest elephant

How many kinds of African elephants are there? There are two! One is the African bush elephant (African savanna elephant) and the other is the African forest elephant. For many years, these elephants were considered the same, but further research has shown that they are different species

Just like the African bush elephant, the African forest elephant gets its name from where it lives. You can find this kind of elephant in Gabon's forests, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Cameroon, Central African Republic, Liberia and Ghana


Our African forest elephant research crew wants you to know that the appearance of an African forest elephant is distinguishable by its size. The bull African forest elephant (male) can grow up to 7.9 to 9.8 feet tall, while the cow African forest elephant (female) grows 5.9 to 7.9 feet tall. It is not as large as the African bush elephant. As for weight, the average adult African forest elephant can weigh as much as 2.2 to 4.4 tons. 

The ears of the African forest elephant are a little different from the African bush elephant. Its ears are much rounder and smaller than the African bush elephant. Also, the tusks of the African forest elephant are thinner, less curved and pointed down. The straighter tusks help them move easier through the thick forests

Eating habits

The diet of the African forest elephant consists of vegetation found in the forests of central and western Africa. It eats leaves, fruits and tree barks. African forest elephant research discovered that African forest elephants will visit mineral licks to get the minerals they do not get in their diet. 

Social life 

Just like the African bush elephant, the African forest elephant also lives in herds. However, it tends to live in a much smaller group. The herd is made up of the elephant matriarch, its daughters and their offspring. The bull elephants (males) live outside of the herd alone. The only time they interact with the herds is when they are mating. 

African forest elephants more commonly communicate through low frequencies. The reason why these elephants communicate in lower frequencies is because lower frequencies spread more than higher frequencies. This is important because in the forests there are trees and plants that can block higher frequencies. 

Life expectancy 

In the wild, African forest elephants can live to be 70 years old. However, their life expectancy is shortened due to poaching, deforestation and human-elephant conflict. These actions have caused African forest elephants to land on the endangered list

Deforestation has caused African forest elephants to lose their homes. The cutting down of forests occurred because of human populations expanding into wildlife areas and converting that land for agricultural and settlement purposes. Another cause of deforestation is commercial logging and mining. These industries open up forests and leave African forest elephants more vulnerable to poachers. 

In the zoos, however, African forest elephants have shorter lifespans. Our African forest elephant research team has found these elephants are not self-sustaining and are at risk of “captive extinction” within U.S. zoos. The cause of this problem is due to the dramatic increase in infertility rates. For every three births, there are five deaths annually. 

Support our African forest elephant research!

We need your help to better understand the causes of morbidity, mortality and poor reproductive performance of African elephants. You can help us by joining our “Herd of Heroes.” This program will allow you to make monthly donations that support our research. For the latest updates about our research, sign-up to our newsletter down below! 


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