EleFact Friday: More About African Elephants

Happy EleFACT Friday! We’ve explored the differences between Asian and African elephants before, but today we’ll be diving in a little deeper on what makes African elephants so unique. 

There are actually two different species of African elephants: The African bush elephant, also known as the African savanna elephant, and African forest elephant. Both live in sub-Saharan Africa in the wild, but there are some differences. Forest elephants are smaller and have more oval-shaped ears. Their tusks are straighter and point more downward, where the bush elephants curve outwards. Bush elephants are found in the savanna and woodland areas of Africa, and forest elephants are found in, of course, the forest. Bush elephants typically graze on grass, while forest elephants consume more leaves and fruit. 

Forest elephants live in smaller social groups, typically made up of 2 to 4 individuals,  compared to the larger herds of bush elephants, which can have up to 14 members. Forest elephants communicate with lower frequency calls, around 5 hertz compared to the 14-24 hertz of the bush elephants. 

It can be more difficult to analyze and keep records of forest elephants, because the dense forests where they live make aerial surveys that researchers use to track them more difficult. Forest elephants can, however, be estimated and tracked through “dung counts,” by analyzing the density and distribution of feces on the forest floor.  

The African elephants that we are preparing to bring to sanctuary, Kenya, Kuky, and Pupy are all bush elephants. The majority of African elephants in captivity are bush elephants. As we designed our African female habitat, we took into account the need to provide a landscape that closely resembles what they would know and be used to in the wild.

Photo of Kenya, one of our future rescues


  1. REPLY
    Katie Howard says

    I’m so excited about bringing African elephants to GSE!
    Also, I had never heard the difference in frequencies between the two species! Remarkable! Do they have any explanation for why that might be? Differences in density of environment?

    • REPLY
      Sara says

      The best way to find answers is to visit ElephantVoices. They are the most trusted source on information on African elephants.

  2. REPLY
    Julie says

    Thank you, Sara, very interesting! I patiently wait for the time when we get to know Kenya, Kuky, and Pupy in particular and the African elephant in general through your descriptions of how they adjust to sanctuary. Thanks again for all you do.

    • REPLY
      Sara says

      Since they will be our first African elephants here at ESB, it will be an exciting time. It will take a while, of course, but still happy to know they’ll be here in a healthy space.

  3. REPLY
    Patricia says

    Since I am pretty elderly, I really hope that ALL the elephants that I know of get to sanctuary before I plotz! Kenya is so lovely. They are all so wonderful, and I am longing for Pocha and Guillermina, as usual. Tons of love to all.

    • REPLY
      Kat Blais says

      Interesting perspective to have on it 😉 but we hope so too.

  4. REPLY
    Carey says

    @ Patricia, I very much hope you see your beloved elephants in GSE too before you ‘plots’. Take care of yourself Patricia

  5. REPLY
    Lori Hoover says

    I knew that was the beautiful Kenya. She is a stunner.

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