Elephants are currently the largest living land animal and the only surviving members of the Elephantidae family and the order Proboscidea, as most of the other animals under this order went extinct around the Late Pleistocene epoch.
The easiest way to identify an elephant is by its enormous size.
The average elephant is at least 10 feet tall and weighs between four and eight tons.
Other distinctive features of this creature include tusks, a trunk, thick skin, huge legs, and large ear flaps.
Over the years, the elephant population of the world has reduced.
The primary reason for this is the poaching and hunting of these creatures by humans, particularly for their tusks.
Many experts believe there were once millions of elephants roaming the continent of Africa alone, but this number has reduced to barely half a million.
These creatures are scattered throughout sub-Saharan Africa and some parts of Asia.
These creatures are split into three different species and two extant genera.
The African bush and the African forest elephant are both members of the Loxodonta genus.
However, there is only one extant species in the genus Elephas, the Asian elephant. Keep reading to find out more about these individual species.
3. African Bush Elephant
Also known as the African savanna elephant or Loxodonta africana, the African bush elephant is one of the only two existing African elephant species.
Like other elephant species, the African bush elephant population suffers from illegal poaching and loss of habitat.
African bush elephants had disappeared from a large portion of their natural habitat after being brutally slain by poachers for their ivory for years.
The drastic reduction of their population on the continent led to the implementation of the worldwide elephant ivory hunting ban in 1989.
Of all the elephant species, the African bush elephant is the largest, making it the largest living land mammal.
African bush elephants can grow to a height of 13 feet.
However, on average, males are 10 feet tall, and females are approximately nine feet tall.
Males weigh around six tons, while females weigh around three tons.
An African bush elephant’s tusks can grow to almost 2.5 meters long and weigh 50 to 100 pounds, the average size of an adult human.
It is important to note that some specialists classify the Central African forest elephant (Loxodonta cyclotis) and the West African forest elephant as separate subspecies of the African bush elephant (Loxodonta cyclotis).
The primary range of the African bush elephant spans across sub-Saharan Africa.
These animals inhabit several types of habitats, including grasslands, subtropical and temperate forests, and wetlands.
In some countries, they also inhabit desert and semi-desert areas.
Like other elephant species, despite its immense size, the African bush elephant is herbivorous, preferring to eat grasses, herbs, and other plant matter.
Being continuously on the move in search of food, these elephants are nomadic creatures; as a result, traveling within large family herds gives them more protection from predators and the elements.
2. African Forest Elephant
The African forest elephant (Loxodonta cyclotis) is the second living species of the African elephant.
Before now, this and the African bush elephant were thought to be the same species, but further genetic evaluation revealed that these two belonged to different species.
In the 20th century, overhunting of this species precipitated a rapid population drop, and by 2013, it was thought that less than 30,000 individuals were still alive.
The species has been classified as critically endangered on the IUCN Red List since 2021.
Of all the extant elephant species, the African forest elephant is the smallest.
The males reach an average height of 8-10 feet and a weight between 8,800–15,400 pounds.
On the other hand, females average between 6-9 feet and have a weight of 4,400–8,800 pounds.
Like the African bush elephant, this species has gray skin, but the easiest way to tell them apart is by their tusks.
In comparison to African bush elephants, African forest elephants have thinner, straighter, and shorter tusks.
This species is native to the humid forests in West Africa and the Congo Basin.
In Central Africa, these elephants can be found in rainforest tracts.
They graze and look for waterholes as they roam through Africa’s grasslands and forests.
They are most frequently found in deep tropical jungles where, unlike larger African bush elephants, their lower size makes it easier for them to move through the dense vegetation.
1. Asian Elephant
The sole remaining species of the genus Elephas is the Asian elephant (Elephas maximus), commonly referred to as the Asiatic elephant.
It is found throughout Southeast Asia and the Indian subcontinent.
The largest extant terrestrial animal in Asia is the Asian elephant, which, like its African counterparts, is designated by the IUCN as endangered.
Like the African species, it is affected primarily by poaching, fragmentation, and loss of habitat.
As of 2019, the population of Asian elephants in the wild was estimated between 48,000 and 53,000.
Though smaller than their African relatives, Asian elephants are still enormous mammals.
Males typically stand around nine feet tall at the shoulder and weigh 8,000 pounds at maturity, while females are smaller, standing about 7.9 feet tall at the shoulder and weighing 5,400 pounds.
Asian elephants are usually gray or brown.
These elephants exhibit pale pink regions of depigmentation around their ears and faces, which experts believe varies depending on nutrition and inheritance.
This species is further classified into three subspecies; the Sri Lankan, the Sumatran, and the Indian elephant.
While female Asian elephants live in matriarchal herds of up to 20 people, male Asian elephants spend the majority of their life alone.
One female elephant often serves as the herd’s leader, leading them along well-traveled paths in search of food and water.
To avoid the heat of the day, these elephants travel at dusk and dawn.
Asian elephants inhabit several habitats, including grasslands and several types of forests.
Within their vast home range, these elephants migrate frequently.
Although they make seasonal migrations, human activities obstruct the routes that Asian elephants have long taken.