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Types of Elephants

The elephant is known to be the largest living mammal in the Animalia kingdom. The different types of elephants form the family known as the Elephantidae which is part of the order Proboscidea, a group of eutherian mammals.

types of elephants
at heritage house bed and breakfast St lucia South Africa

Guess where we are?

iSimangaliso Wetland Park (Western Shores), travel time from At Heritage House is 8 minutes. The western shores was officially opened to the public in 2014. At Heritage House is proud that we offer and operate both and day and night drives into this wonderful park. The park is home to the African Big 4 (No Lion's Unfortunately).

The elephants do occasionally cross the St Lucia Estuary on the Western Shores and travel into the Eastern shores. This primarily occurs when the Marula Trees start to bear fruit.

However as we have these amazing animals in the park we thought we'd give you some additional Elephant Information discussing the various types as well. Hope you enjoy. Want to see more Elephants then explore Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park.

Elephants are the only surviving family in this order. There are three types of elephant species: the African bush elephant, the African forest elephant and the Asian elephant.  There has been much debate about the status of the two African elephant types with some studies viewing them as separate species while some studies indicate that they are the same type of species.

All elephants have similar, typical physical attributes. The commonly known feature is a long trunk, which is also known as a proboscis. The trunk is used for breathing, lifting water and grasping objects. Their incisors grow into tusks which they use as weapons or tools to move objects and for digging. They also have thick or stocky legs to carry their weight. Elephants are known to be herbivores and have a diet consisting of leaves, twigs, fruit, bark and grass.

One of the biggest threats to all elephant types is the rising ivory trade. Many elephants are poached for their ivory tusks, this has led to a major decline in elephant population size.

African Bush Elephant

Types of Elephants

African bush elephant

Scientific Name: Loxodonta africana

Distribution: The African bush elephant can be found in habitats such as dry savannahs, deserts, lake shores and even in mountain areas above the snow line. They are commonly found in Sub-Saharan Africa in countries such as South Africa, Gabon and Malawi.

Population size: approximately 300 000 in 2018

Individual physical characteristics:

  • Has the common grey skin color which looks brown or red after playing around in colored mud
  • Larger ears
  • A concave back
  • More wrinkled skin
  • A sloping abdomen
  • Two finger-like extensions at the tip of the trunk that allow it to grasp and bring food to its mouth
  • Both the male and female have large tusks that are around 3 meters long
  • Diamond shaped molars
  • Considered to be the largest elephant type with males typically reaching 3.20 meters in height and around 6000 kilograms in weight. The females are typically 2.40 meters in length and weigh around 2700 kilograms.

Other facts:

  • Listed as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature
  • Floppy trunk syndrome is a condition of trunk paralysis in African bush elephants caused by the degradation of the peripheral nerves and muscles beginning at the tip
  • Ears are shaped like the African continent.
forest-elephant-conservation

African forest elephant

Scientific Name: Loxodonta cyclotis

Distribution: Forest elephants are mainly found around equatorial forests but may also be found in gallery forests and ecotones (a region of transition between two biological communities) between forests and savannahs. They are located in Western and Central Africa in countries such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Population size: approximately 200 000 in 2018.

Individual physical characteristics:

  • Has the common grey skin color however looks brown or red after playing around in coloured mud
  • A concave back
  • More wrinkled skin
  • A sloping abdomen
  • Two finger-like extensions at the tip of the trunk that allow it to grasp and bring food to its mouth
  • Ears are slightly smaller and rounder than the bush elephant
  • Thinner and straighter tusks
  • Both the male and female have large tusks that are around 3 meters long
  • Diamond shaped molars
  • Smallest type of elephant with a height of 2.20 meters in height and weighing approximately 2000 kilograms. Males are said to be approximately 20% taller than females.

Other facts:

  • Listed as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature

Ears are shaped like the African continent.

asian elephants

Asian elephant

Scientific Name: Elephas maximus

Distribution: The preferred habitat includes combination of grasses, low woody plants and treats. These areas are known as dry thorn-scrub forests. They can also be found in rain forests. Countries such as India, Nepal and Sri-Lanka in South and Southeast Asia is where the Asian elephant is commonly found.

Population size: approximately 50 000 in 2018.

Individual physical characteristics:

  • Has the common grey skin color with patches of depigmentation on the forehead, ears and the areas around them. They also have brownish or reddish hair on the head or back
  • Know to be larger than the African elephant species
  • Smaller ears
  • A convex or level back
  • Smoother skin
  • A horizontal abdomen that sags in the middle
  • One extension at the tip of the trunk. This means it relies more on wrapping around a food item and squeezing it into its mouth
  • Narrower looped ridges in the molars
  • Dorsal bumps on its head and some patches of depigmentation on its skin
  • Male elephants have large tusks that are around 3 metres long, while the female ones have very small tusks or none at all.

Other facts:

  • Listed as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature
  • Has more muscle coordination and can perform complex tasks in comparison to the African elephant species which means that they are used as working animals in Asia
  • Owing to the fact that it has one trunk, losing this one trunk usually means that the elephant does not survive.

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At Heritage House, KwaZulu Natal South Africa

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