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African Elephants (Loxodonta africana and L. cyclotis) Fact Sheet: Summary

African Elephants (Loxodonta africana and L. cyclotis) Fact Sheet

an African Elephant eating

African Elephant

Image credit: © San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance. All rights reserved.


Taxonomy Physical Characteristics

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Mammalia

Order: Proboscidea

Family: Elephantidae

Genus: Loxodonta

Species: Loxodonta africana - African savanna or African bush elephant
Species: Loxodonta cyclotis - African forest elephant

Body Weight:
Savanna elephant: 2400-6300 kg (5291-13,889 lb)**
Forest elephant: 2,700-6,000 kg (5952-13,228 lb)**

Shoulder Height:
Savanna elephant: 2.2m-4 m (10-13 ft)
Forest elephant: 1.8-2.8 m (6-9 ft)

Trunk: 1.8-2 m (6-6.6 ft)

Tusks: 2-3 m

**Males heavier than females.

Distribution & Status Behavior & Ecology

Savanna elephant: Areas of East, Central and Southern Africa
Forest elephant: The Congo basin and West Africa

Savanna elephant: grassy plains & bushlands
Forest elephant: rainforest

IUCN Status
African savanna elephant (L. africana): Endangered
African forest elephant (L. cyclotis): Critically Endangered

CITES Appendix
Appendix I, except for populations of Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe, which are included in Appendix II.

Population in Wild:  Approximately 415,000 individuals estimated by systematic surveys; possibly an additional 117,000 in non-surveyed areas

Activity Cycle: Diurnal and nocturnal. Feed 16 hours and sleep 4-5 hours.

Social Groups: matriarchal groups of 6-14

Diet: Herbivorous. Savanna elephants are considered "browsers" while forest elephants are more characteristically "grazers"

Predators: humans
Reproduction & Development Species Highlights
Sexual Maturity: Males mature late, c. 12-15 years, compared with females that reach maturity c. 10-11 years of age.

Gestation: 22 months

Litter Size: A single calf.

Birth weight: 90-120 kg (198-265 lbs)

Age at Weaning: 2-3 years

Longevity: wild up to 60 years

Feature Facts ​

  • The large, complex brain of an elephant is matched only by that of a primate or a cetacean.
  • Largest living land mammal.
  • Ears are 2x size of Asian elephants
  • Strong evidence of 2 distinct sub-species: L. cyclotis (forest elephant) and L. africana (savanna elephant).
  • Groups are matriarchal with males leaving in their teens.
  • Vulnerable status mainly from conversion of land to farming and mining, and poaching for ivory trade.
  • Populations are managed in protected areas. Community-based conservation initiatives are important.
  • Maintenance of wildlife corridors will be crucial to allow movement.
  • First Asian Elephants (Empress and Queenie) arrived at San Diego Zoo in 1923, ridden by Frank Buck and Harry Wegeforth from the Santa Fe  Station to the Zoo.
  • The Zoo’s first African elephant, baby Peaches arrived 9/21/58.

About This Fact Sheet

© 2008-2021 San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance. Minor updates in May 2015. Taxonomic update July 2016. Population estimates updated Sep 2018. IUCN Status updated Mar 2021.

How to cite: African Elephants (Loxodonta africana and L. cyclotis) Fact Sheet. c2008-2021. San Diego (CA): San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance; [accessed YYYY Mmm dd]. african_elephant.
(note: replace YYYY Mmm dd with date accessed)

Disclaimer: Although San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance makes every attempt to provide accurate information, some of the facts provided may become outdated or replaced by new research findings. Questions and comments may be addressed to

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