African Forest Elephant

"Elephant in Limbo" by Laurel Austin (digital)

Elephants are one of the most intelligent animals on the planet, and are a strange mix of characteristics that are at once very much like us and also quite alien. They live for many decades, have dear friendships and mourn each others’ deaths. In spite of this, they are being killed off by humans in huge numbers for the most frivolous reasons. It is one of those sad, cruel facts about the world that we forget at our peril.

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The African forest elephant is a nomadic animal and prefers wandering through the rainforests of western and central Africa, particularly in areas with swaths of dense vegetation. They move out of the forests into swamps during the dry season. Less is known about the African forest elephant than the savanna elephant because of their elusive lifestyle.

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Family Life

African forest elephants are a polygynous species. Males come into reproductive age anywhere from 8 to 15 years and females from 11 to 14. Their average gestation period is 22-24 months. Baby forest elephants nurse for up to 6.5 years and family units are matriarchal, with adult males leaving the herd once they reach adolescence to form groups of unrelated males. 


There is limited available data on the life expectancy of the African forest elephant. African savanna elephants can live for 60-70 years, though the expected lifespan of an African elephant in captivity is closer to 35 years.

Hunting Habits/Diet

The African forest elephant is a herbivore that eats seasonally, primarily fruits in the wet season and grasses and leaves in the dry season.


There are an estimated 60,000 to 150,000 African forest elephants.

Fun Facts

The forest elephant is a subspecies of the African elephant, smaller than the savanna elephant (and with a different number of toenails). African forest elephants go through six full sets of teeth during their lives. They communicate with sound frequencies lower than the limit of human hearing.

Why Are They Endangered?

Deforestation and loss of natural habitat are the biggest threats to theAfrican forest elephant, along with poaching. The tusks of the forest elephant are valued greater than those of the savanna elephant because the ivory is both harder and retains elasticity better.