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Forest Elephant

Loxodonta cyclotis [lok' suh don' tuh sI' klo tis]

Forest Elephant


The Forest Elephant rarely stands more than 8 feet at the shoulders, compared to up to 13 feet for its savannah counterpart. It also has slimmer and straighter tusks, smoother skin, and more rounded ears than its savannah cousin. It has 5 toes on its front feet and 4 on its hind feet. The tusks can be up to 5 feet long and weigh 50 to 100 pounds.

Distribution and Habitat

Most of the remaining forest elephants are found in Gabon and the Republic of Congo, with significant populations also remaining in the southeastern corner of the Republic of Cameroon and the adjoining southwestern tip of the Central African Republic. They live in the tropical dense jungles, where their smaller size allows them to move through the thick vegetation more easily.

Habits and Behaviors

The home range of an individual forest elephant can be more than 772 square miles, which is bigger than many of the national parks in central Africa, and it can walk across large national parks in as little as three days.

Highly aware that roads are very dangerous, unless they are protected from poachers, a forest elephant will travel 14 times faster than normal in order to cross a road it considers to be risky.

Like their savannah counterparts, forest elephants live in herds of several females and calfs, with most adult males being solitary.

Forest elephants communicate through a series of low-frequency calls, which they are able to detect from a few miles away.


Female forest elephants reach sexual maturity at 10-11 years, males not until they are almost 20 years old.

A single calf (very rarely twins) is born after a gestation period of almost two years. The calf will be nursed for two years, and will stay with the herd until able to fend for itself.

A forest elephant can live up to 70 years in the wild.


Forest elephants rely far more on fruit than savannah elephants; they also feed on bark, leaves, and herbaceous material. Their requirement for mineral salts attracts them to specific, mineral-rich, open forest clearings that occur throughout the forest region. Here the elephants dig in the soil, or extract the mineral substances from the beds of rivers and streams, sometimes by kneeling down to get as deep as possible with their trunks or even by diving underwater.

Conservation Status

The total population of forest elephants has never been accurately determined so it is not known whether their numbers are stable, increasing, or decreasing. It is known, however, that their range is becoming increasingly restricted and fragmented as more and more human activity encroaches into the once relatively undisturbed forests of Central Africa. Like their savannah counterparts, forest elephants are also poached for their tusks.

Scientific Classification

Phylum Chordata
Subphylum Vertebrata
Class Mammalia
Order Proboscidea
Family Elephantidae
Genus and species Loxondonta cyclotis


Wildlife Conservation Society

See Also

African Elephant

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This page was last updated on August 31, 2018.