30 Dec 2022
The African Bush Elephant is the largest of all living creatures on land today, with some individuals growing to weigh more than 6 tonnes. The Elephant is thought to have been named after the Greek word for ivory, meaning that Elephants were named for their uniquely long tusks.
Although many of the ancestors of the African Bush Elephant became extinct during the last ice age (including the Woolly Mammoth), there are three distinct species of Elephant remaining today which are the Asian Elephant (of which there are a number of sub-species), the African Bush Elephant and the African Forest Elephant.
Although these two Elephant species are very similar, the African Bush Elephant is considered to be generally larger than the African Forest Elephant, which has rounder ears and straighter tusks.
Not only is the African Bush Elephant an incredibly sociable mammal but it is also a very active one. African Bush Elephants are nomadic animals meaning that they are constantly on the move in search of food, so moving within these family herds allows them to have greater protection both from predators and from the elements.
The trunk of the African Bush Elephant is one of its most distinguishing features and this extra-long nose is not only flexible enough to gather and handle food but can also collect water. Its trunk, along with its tusks can also be used to defend itself from predators such as lions, and to fight with other male African Bush Elephants during the mating season.
In the early 19th century, the story of the African Bush Elephant was very different with their being up to 5 million individuals thought to have been roaming the African continent. However, due to the increased demand for ivory, Africa’s Bush Elephant population is thought to have fallen as much as 85% in some areas.
The large ears of the African Bush Elephant are said by some to be shaped somewhat like Africa, but these large flaps of skin are not just for hearing, they are a vital tool in keeping the Elephant cool in the African heat. Like many of the herbivores found throughout Africa, the calves can walk at birth to maximise their chances of survival. An adult African Bush Elephant can drink up to 190 liters of water every day, and is able to take 6 liters of water into their trunks at a time.
The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in the latest revision of its ‘Red List’ of species at risk of extinction, the IUCN has made the unprecedented move of highlighting that bush elephant and forest elephant species are actually closer to extinction than previously assessed due to unrelenting pressures from poaching and habitat loss.
Previously, the conservation status of African elephants in the Red List was “vulnerable”.
Now, savannah elephants have been classified as “endangered” (facing a very high risk of extinction in the wild) and forest elephants as “critically endangered” (facing an extremely high risk of extinction in the wild).
The IUCN reports an overall reduction of 80 per cent of the forest elephant population in the past three generations (93 years), while savannah elephant herds fell by at least 60 per cent during the past 50 years – an ongoing trend that is likely irreversible.
This is not just numbers, it is a very alarming reality. They are also part of the planet as we are. We need to be aware of the danger they live and act to stop their extinction.