African elephants are the largest land mammal and have a number of distinctive physical characteristics. Their trunks are used to pick up food, draw water, breathe and greet other elephants. Their large ears help them keep cool and communicate a range of emotions. Adult African elephants have two tusks which are used to peel bark off trees, mine for minerals and defend against predators.
African elephants are keystone species, in that they play a crucial role in maintaining their ecosystems. They assist with plant dispersal by depositing undigested plant seeds in their dung, and they alter their landscape by uprooting trees and digging for water during the dry season. These foraging behaviours can also help other animals survive in harsh environmental conditions.
Elephants live in family groups, presided over by a dominant female, called a matriarch. Bull elephants depart the matriarchal herd when they reach sexual maturity, then move alone or in bachelor herds. Herds can consist of 100 individuals or more, and they can move huge distances in search of food and water; for example, elephants in the deserts of Mali migrate across an area of 12,355 square miles.
*International Union for Conservation of Nature is the world’s main authority on the conservation status of species.
415,000 (2016) ⬆️
Herbivorous – grass, leaves, twigs, buds, fruit, roots and bark
African savannah elephants can be found in a variety of habitats, including open and closed savannah, and arid deserts (i.e. Namibia and Mali). African forest elephants primarily inhabit dense rainforest, although they can be found in surprising places, like oceanic beaches (i.e. Gabon)
37 countries in sub-Saharan Africa
African elephants face a risk of extinction in the near future due to a number of threats, including illegal killing for the ivory trade, habitat destruction through human population expansion and agriculture, and subsequent persecution for raiding crops and destroying buildings.
Elephants also experience considerable physical suffering and psychological distress from being kept in captivity for human entertainment, exhibiting uncharacteristic behaviour, higher infant mortality and reduced life spans.
We work across Kenya, Ethiopia, Cameroon and Zimbabwe monitoring and protecting wild elephant populations. Our dedicated projects work to reduce human-wildlife conflict and support ranger patrols to protect wild elephants from poaching.
We are convinced that captivity cannot provide for the needs of elephants and are calling for the keeping of elephants in UK zoos to be phased out over time.