Three elephant taxa are present today of the sixteen elephant-like creatures from the Pleistocene era. Bush/Savanna elephants are the biggest terrestrial creatures, marginally larger than their African (forest elephant) and Asian kin. They are the proud owners of enormous ears that help them dissipate heat.
Bush/Savanna elephants have curved tusks, and both male and female elephants have tusks. Poaching for ivory is a vital factor in individual fatalities and population reduction. There are just not enough calves born to compensate for the losses from poaching, as reproduction rates are low.
Distributed initially throughout Africa, Savanna Elephants inhabit grasslands, woodlands, and forests in 37 Central and South African countries, only 15% of their historical range.
2023: The government of Botswana announced that it will ban all elephant trophy hunting starting in January 2024, citing concerns about declining elephant populations and the importance of preserving these animals for future generations.
March 2023: In Gabon, a new AI-powered camera is being tested to help conserve elephant populations by sending real-time data to forest rangers and local villagers, while also detecting other animals, humans, and potential conflicts or illegal activities.
Jan 2023: Researchers in Tanzania announced the successful implementation of a new anti-poaching program that uses drones to monitor elephant populations and detect illegal activity. The program has already resulted in several successful prosecutions of poachers.
Did you know?
- Population in Central Africa has a 64% estimated decline.
- The average size of tusks has shrunk over the past 100 years, due to the slaughter of elephants for their ivory, which has made the “large tusk gene” increasingly scarce.
- Half of their population has vanished during the last 75 years, a trend that is thought to be ongoing and most likely irreversible.
- Poaching is increasing dramatically in some of the historically less-affected southern African populations (w.r.t CITES Monitoring the Illegal Killing of Elephants programme (MIKE))
- Despite an international ban on the trafficking of elephant tusk ivory, China’s thirst for “white gold/ivory” drives the poaching of over 30,000 elephants in Africa each year.
- Large quantities of elephant ivory have been utilized to create billiard balls, piano keys, identification tags, jewelry and several other products for mere human enjoyment.
- Tusks are typically enlarged canine teeth in mammals, but in elephants, they are elongated incisors. One third part of the tusk is actually embedded deep in the elephant’s head, invisible from outside. Elephants’ tusks never stop growing.
- They have the longest gestation period of any mammal i.e. 22 long months!
- More than 40,000 muscles and tendons manipulate their trunk, that’s 60 times more muscles than the human body!
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Terrestrial / Aquatic
Altricial / Precocial
Polygamous / Monogamous
Dimorphic (size) / Monomorphic
Active: Diurnal / Nocturnal
Social behavior: Solitary / Pack / Herd
Diet: Carnivore / Herbivore / Omnivore / Piscivorous / Insectivore
Migratory: Yes / No
Domesticated: Yes / No
Dangerous: Yes / No