African Elephant is the largest living terrestrial animal on Earth. It inhabits the Savannah, brush, forest, river valleys, and semi-desert regions of Africa, ranging from sub-Saharan region to the rain forests of central and West Africa.
The African Elephants are found range throughout sub-Saharan Africa and the rain forests of central and West Africa. The continent’s northernmost elephants are found in Mali’s Sahel desert. The small, nomadic herd of Mali elephants migrates in a circular route through the desert in search of water.
Poaching is the biggest concern for the elephants in Africa. Huge number of elephants are killed every year by poachers for Ivory and other elephant parts. Due to economical and political issues, the conservation of the elephants vary from country to country. Human encroachment into or adjacent to natural areas have shrink-ed the habitat of this largest mammal. In 1990 an international ban was imposed on Elephant Ivory. The poaching reduced after that. It is estimated that the total population of African Elephants reduced from 1.3 million to only 0.6 million due to poaching and hunting. The current population of African Elephant is stated from 500,000 to 700,000.
Elephants are herbivorous. Their diet varies according to their habitat; elephants living in forests, partial deserts, and grasslands all eat different proportions of herbs and tree or shrubbery leaves. Elephants inhabiting the shores of Lake Kariba have been recorded eating underwater plant life too. An adult elephant can consume up to 200 kilograms of food in a single day.
African Elephant lives up to around 70 years, with females mostly fertile between 25 and 45. Males need to reach 20 years of age in order to successfully compete for mating. Young elephants wean after 6 to 18 months, although they may continue nursing for over 6 years. Male elephants leave their natal group at puberty and tend to form much more fluid alliances with other males. Usually, a single calf is born every 2.5-9 years , after a gestation period of 22 months. But there are some examples of twins too.
There are two recognized subspecies of African Elephant. The Savanna (or bush) elephant (Loxodonta africana africana), and the Forest elephant (Loxodonta africana cyclotis). Savanna elephants are larger than forest elephants, and their tusks curve outwards. In addition to being smaller, forest elephants are darker and their tusks are straighter and downward pointing. There are also differences in the size and shape of the skull and skeleton between the 2 subspecies. The elephants most prominent body part is the trunk. It is actually a long nose used for smelling, breathing, trumpeting, drinking, etc. Males have large tusks that they use to battle with one another. The African Elephants are distinguished with Asian Elephants by the larger ears.
The male Elephants are bigger in size than females. A full grown male African Bush Elephant can reach almost 4 meters (13 ft) in height while African Forest Elephant hardly exceed 2.5 meters (8 ft) in height. The Bush Elephant can weigh upto 9,000 Kg (20,000 lb).With regard to the number of toenails: the African Bush Elephant normally has 4 toenails on the frontfoot and 3 on the hindfoot, the African Forest Elephant normally has 5 toenails on the frontfoot and 4 on the hindfoot.