The African Forest Elephant (Loxodonta cyclotis) was until recently considered a subspecies of the African Bush Elephant (Loxodonta africana). However, recent reserach involving DNA has produced the results that there are actually three main species of elephant: the two African species (Loxodonta Africana) and (Loxodonta cyclotis) and the Asian (Indian) Elephant (Elephas Maximus).
They are typically considered to be different populations of a single species.
The North African elephants known as the ‘war elephants of Hannibal’, were possibly a now-extinct fourth species or a subspecies of the Forest Elephant.
The disputed Pygmy Elephants (Loxodonta pumilio) of the Congo basin are often assumed to be another separate species by cryptozoologists (one who studies for animals which fall outside of contemporary zoological catalogs) but are probably Forest Elephants whose small size and/or early maturity is due to environmental conditions.
African Forest Elephant Description
Noticable differences between the two African species include the African Forest Elephants long, narrow mandible (jawbone), (the African Bush Elephants is short and wide), its rounded ears (an African Bush Elephants ears are more pointed), different tusks and their size on the whole is considerably smaller than the larger African Elephants of the African Savannas.
The male African Forest Elephant rarely exceed 2.5 metres (8 feet) in height, while the African Bush Elephant is usually over 3 metres (just under 10 feet) and sometimes almost 4 metres (13 feet) tall.
It has long been known that the ivory of the African Forest Elephant is particularly hard, with a pinkish tinge and is more straight (whereas that of the African Bush Elephant is curved).
The African forest elephant has, like the asian elephant, four nails on the hindfeet and five nails on the frontfeet (which is more nails than than the african bush elephant which has four front nails and three nails on the hind feet).
African Forest Elephant Diet
African Forest elephants survive on a diet of herbs and trees or shrubbery leaves and large amounts of water.
African Forest Elephant Habitat
African Forest elephants are found in lowland tropical and subtropical rainforests and woodlands of central western Africa.
African Forest Elephant Reproduction
A male African Forest elephant touches a female to see if she is ready to mate. An elephants gestation (pregnancy) period lasts about 22 months (630 – 660 days), the longest gestation period of any mammal, after which one calf is typically born. An orphaned calf will usually be adopted by one of the familys lactating females or suckled by various females.
African Forest Elephant Behaviour
African Forest Elephants live in close social groups called ‘herds’. A herd is usually made up of related females and their offspring. The leader of the herd is called the ‘matriarch’ and she is usually the oldest and most experienced female elephant in the herd.
It has been discovered that elephants can communicate over long distances by sending and receiving low frequency sounds, a sub-sonic rumbling that can travel through the ground farther than sound travels in the air. This sound is felt by the sensitive skin of an elephants feet and trunk, which pick up the vibrations through the ground.
African Forest Elephant Conservation Status
African Forest Elephants are classed as an ‘Endangered Species’. Forest elephant populations are generally believed to be smaller and more endangered than elephant populations elsewhere in Africa. In 1980 there was an estimated 380,000 forest elephants, since then the human population was doubled in the forested countries and today there is probably less than 200,000.
December 2000 formed the environmental ministers in Camerun, Central african Republic and Congo, a united migration corridor for the elephants, where they can walk back and forth over the borders between the countries.