Species Spotlight: African Elephant

Two African elephants roaming the flowery grass land in Tanzania

Questions and Answers

How many species of African elephant are there?
New genetic research now recognizes the African elephant as two different species -- the African forest elephant and the African savanna elephant—according to a conservation assessment by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature's (IUCN) Red List.

What is the main difference between the two African elephants and Asian elephants?
There are more than 10 physical characteristics that differentiate Asian and African elephants. For example, only some male Asian elephants have tusks, while both male and female African elephants grow tusks. It is also important to note African savanna and forest elephants have a number of characteristics that differentiate them both; African forest elephants are smaller than African savanna elephants. Their ears are more oval-shaped and their tusks are straighter and point downward (the tusks of savanna elephants curve outwards).

How do elephants sense danger as well as find water?
Elephants can detect the Earth’s vibrations with sensory cells in their feet and hear warnings sent through the ground from other elephants. They sense time lapsed between signals to determine the direction of the vibration. Elephants have been known to detect a thunderstorm from miles away and head towards it, hoping to find water.


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