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African Elephants (Loxodonta africana and L. cyclotis) Fact Sheet: Distribution & Habitat


Ancient historic range

  • Throughout Africa, though absent from the Sahara
    • Regional changes in range are difficult to estimate given a lack of precise historical measures (Blanc 2007)
  • Range constriction
    • Eliminated from Northern Africa by the end of the middle ages
    • Began to disappear in Southern Africa in 1700s and 1800s

Current distribution

  • Savannah elephant (Loxodonta africana)
    • Areas of East, Central and Southern Africa
  • Forest elephant (L. cyclotis)
    • The Congo basin and West Africa
  • Reintroduced populations
    • Swaziland (Blanc 2008)
  • Regional extinctions
    • Burundi, Gambia, and Mauritania (Blanc 2008)
  % of Species Range (2007) % Protected Range (2002) % Protected Range (2007) % Decrease in Estimated Range (attributed to improved information)
Southern Africa 39 13 28 22
Central Africa 29 12 33 >50
Eastern Africa 26 24 30 10
Western Africa 5 40 56 21
Information on species range summarized from reports by Blanc 2003; Blanc 2007.


Habitat generalists

  • May survive in areas with sufficient food and water
    • May forage as far as 80 km from water
  • Ecologically the two sub-species occupy different environments with little overlap
    • Savanna (or bush) elephants
      • Occupy lowland and montane forests, flood plains, and all types of woodland and savanna
    • Forest elephants
      • Occupy moist semi-deciduous rainforests

Distribution Map

distribution map of African elephants
African elephants distribution.

Adapted from according to IUCN fact sheets: African savanna elephant, African forest elephant.

Page Citations

Blanc (2003)
Blanc (2007)
Blanc (2008)
Estes (1991)
Grubb & Groves (2000)
Shoshani (1992)
Shoshani & Tassy (1996)

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