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