All images are the property of mongabay.com (Nancy Butler), copyright 1994. Contact mongabay regarding use and reproduction.
For information on elephants check out elephant articles. More pictures of elephants.
Recommended travel guides on Botswana
Recommended travel guides on Botswana:
The African Savannah Elephant (Loxodonta africana) is the best-known and larger of the two African elephants. Both it and the Forest Elephant were previously classified as a single species, which was known simply as the African Elephant. It is also known as the Bush Elephant or African Bush Elephant.
The Savannah elephant can range from 6–7.3 m (20–24 ft) long and 3–4 m (10–13 ft) high. At up to 10,000 kg (22,000 lb) it is the largest land animal in the world.
After their size, an elephant's most obvious characteristic is the single trunk, a type of muscular hydrostat, that is a much elongated combination of nose and upper lip. The tip of an elephant's trunk contains pacinian corpuscles and finger-like projections used to manipulate small objects and to pluck grasses. The trunk is a useful and muscular appendage that enables an elephant to reach food in high places and lift obstacles weighing up to 1 ton. Elephants are able to pull up to 11.5 liters (3 gallons) of water into the trunk to be sprayed into the mouth for drinking or onto the back for bathing. A trunk is also used for breathing and can be used as a snorkel when wading in deep water.
Elephants also have tusks, large teeth emerging from their upper jaws. Elephant tusks are the major source of ivory, but because of the increased rarity of elephants, hunting and ivory trade is now restricted, and in some countries illegal.
Elephants have three premolars and three molars in each quadrant. They erupt in order from front to back, then wear down as the elephant chews its highly fibrous diet. When the last molar has worn out, the elephant typically dies of malnutrition; elephants in captivity can be kept alive longer than that by feeding them preground food. The molars of the African elephant are loxodont, hence the genus name.
Skin diseases often occur, from which they try to protect themselves by taking mud baths, showering one another with water from the trunk, and rolling in dust. The skin can therefore appear brown or reddish, but the natural color is light gray. Their coarse and wrinkled skin is sparsely bristled, and about 1 inch (25 mm) thick. There are also rare white elephants, who often have blue eyes. Otherwise elephants have brown eyes, surrounded by long lashes.
They have large ears that they can wave to cool themselves down, and a relatively small tail with a brush at its tip.
Walking at a normal pace an elephant covers about 2 to 4 miles an hour (3 to 6 km/h) but they can reach 24 miles an hour (40 km/h) at full speed.
Elephants are herbivores, spending 16 hours a day collecting plant food. Their diet is at least 50% grasses, supplemented with leaves, twigs, bark, roots, and small amounts of fruits, seeds and flowers. Because elephants only use 40% of what they eat they have to make up for their digestive system's lack of efficiency in volume. An adult elephant can consume 300 to 600 pounds (140 to 270 kg) of food a day. 60% of that food leaves the elephant's body undigested.
News on Elephants
Using DNA evidence to pinpoint poaching zones
A study published last week in Science showed that most of the ivory being trafficked today comes from two areas in Africa: savanna elephant ivory from southeast Tanzania in East Africa and forest elephant ivory from the meeting point of Gabon, the Republic of Congo, Cameroon, and Central African Republic.
On the fence about wildlife fencing: new paper outlines research needed to resolve debate
Fencing is used to protect wildlife against poaching and human encroachment, and also to protect people and livestock from wildlife. As a conservation strategy, it has proponents as well as detractors. A recent paper by a team of 45 international researchers in the Journal of Applied Ecology questions the wisdom of erecting wildlife fencing in dryland ecosystems. It also seeks to ease decision-making on fencing initiatives by setting a research agenda to answer open questions that will help resolve the debate.
Elephant poaching gets center stage in NYC ivory crush
Public awareness of the global elephant ivory poaching crisis got a high profile boost today with the crush of 2,000 pounds (907 kg) of confiscated ivory in New York City's Times Square.
Real-time monitoring: How timely location data can keep wildlife out of danger zones
Do you know where your study animals are? How fast have they travelled over the past day or week? How far are they from a river, or from a highway? Previously, wildlife biologists had to estimate the locations of their study subjects, using either triangulation from two or more receiver locations or identifiable landscape features on aerial photos or hand-drawn maps. With the advent of GPS technology, they can pinpoint the location of their subject to within a few meters, at any given time.
What do China, Kenya and India have in common? Wildlife trafficking
When it comes to trafficking rhino, elephant, and tiger parts the biggest players are China, Kenya, India, Vietnam, South Africa and Thailand, according to a new paper in PNAS. Examining news media reports aggregated by HealthMap: Wildlife Trade, researchers were able to pinpoint the most important countries for exporting, moving and importing illegal wildlife parts worldwide.
The ivory trade and the war on wildlife (rangers) [commentary]
In this commentary, Fred Bercovitch, wildlife conservation biologist at Kyoto University, confronts the conservation community with an unconventional approach to stopping the ivory trade and illegal elephant killing. The views expressed are his own.
The poachers' bill: at least 65,000 elephants in Tanzania
During the last couple years there have been persistent rumors and trickles of information that elephant poaching was running rampant in Tanzania as the government stood by and did little. Yesterday, the government finally confirmed the rumors: Tanzania's savanna elephant population has dropped from 109,051 animals in 2009 to just 43,330 last year—a plunge of 60% in just five years.
Elephants rejoice: China to end ivory trade
The Chinese government announced today that it will 'eventually' shut down its legal domestic ivory market. The move, which surprised conservationists, could provide a major boost in efforts to stop the mass killing of elephants for their ivory.
Uganda's elephant population has risen 600% since its 1980s low
In the 1980s, Uganda's elephants looked like they were on their way to extinction. The country had only about 700-800 elephants left, all in a single park; poachers had exterminated the rest. But a new survey as a part of the Great Elephant Census has confirmed that Uganda is today a bright spot in the current ivory poaching crisis. The country has more than 5,000 elephants and growing.
Drone Herders: Tanzanian rangers and researchers use UAVs to protect elephants and crops
HEC, otherwise known as human elephant conflict, is a centuries-old problem responsible for the deaths of untold numbers of elephants. This ongoing battle between African farmers trying to grow crops and hungry elephants foraging for a meal, has motivated conservationists to find solutions for protecting the largest and one of the most intelligent land animals on the planet. Scientistsâ€™ most recent effort -- Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), frisbee-sized remote controlled quad-helicopters -- may provide the answer that researchers have been looking for.
Mozambique loses almost 10,000 elephants in just five years
Mozambique has lost nearly half of its elephants to relentless, brutal, and highly-organized poaching in just five years, according to a new government survey. In 2010, the country was home to an estimated 20,000 pachyderms, today it houses just 10,300.
Weapons trafficking experts target criminal wildlife trade networks
An outfit usually associated with investigating arms dealers and weapons traffickers is applying its advanced network mapping capabilities to go after wildlife trafficking syndicates. This week Washington D.C.-based C4ADS unveiled the Environmental Crimes Fusion Cell, a unit which consists of a team of analysts, network mapping technology provided by software company Palantir, and a network of NGOs and enforcement agencies. The unit analyses wildlife trade data to provide actionable intelligence to pursue and apprehend traffickers.
South African Airways bans all wildlife trophies from flights
Trophy hunters may need to find another flight home, as South African Airlines (SAA) has announced a new ban on any wildlife trophies from their flights. The debate over trophy hunting in Africa is rising as many of the continent's most beloved mammals—including lions, elephants, rhinos, and giraffes—face precipitous declines.
Wilmar, Musim Mas supplier caught clearing elephant habitat for palm oil in Aceh
A new report provides evidence that a supplier of palm oil giants Wilmar and Musim Mas is bulldozing valuable forests in Indonesiaâ€™s Leuser Ecosystem in violation of the companiesâ€™ zero-deforestation policies as well as the Indonesia Palm Oil Pledge (IPOP), a high-profile, joint sustainability pact that also includes Golden Agri-Resources, Asian Agri, Musim Mas and the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Kadin).
Ranger killed by poachers in park known for grisly elephant slaughters
On April 25th, poachers shot and killed wildlife ranger, Agoyo Mbikoyo, in Garamba National Park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), according to the organization African Parks. On the frontline of the illegal wildlife trade, Garamba Naitonal Park is known as a hotspot for elephant poaching.
Activist deported from Cambodia continues fighting dam from abroad
Alex Gonzalez-Davidson has been campaigning to prevent construction of a proposed dam on the Areng River in the Cardamom Mountains. The Cambodian government deported him in February, but evidence is mounting that the dam project may have stalled.
Tapping into evolutionary responses to guard crops against elephants
The search for effective measures to reduce human-elephant conflict is a top priority for wildlife managers and a significant challenge. Ongoing conflict incidents exacerbate anti-wildlife sentiments among rural populations, as conflict events can lead to the deaths of both people and elephants. The continued expansion of development and agriculture into traditional wildlife grazing lands pushes elephants into more frequent contact with people and crop fields.
Illegal ivory trade alive and well on Craigslist
As it has become more difficult to buy illegal ivory from slaughtered elephants on places like eBay, Etsy, and Amazon.com, traders and buyers in the U.S. have turned to another venue: Craigslist. A new report by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) and the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) finds that the ivory trade is thriving on Craigslist.
Two more Sumatran elephants found dead in Aceh
A pair of critically endangered Sumatran elephants were found dead this month in Indonesia's Aceh province, just the latest casualties for a species that has been brought into increasing conflict with humans amid the country's oil palm boom. One was shot through the head by a poacher. The other was injured by a snare trap and perished shortly thereafter.
Zimbabwe selling baby elephant calves to China, says environmental group
A hundred thousand African elephants were killed by poachers for their ivory between 2010 and 2012. Now a new threat looms: a growing wildlife trade in baby animals to satisfy international tourism. Zimbabwe has reportedly taken 80 elephant calves from their mothers and families in the wild, and is currently holding them in two heavily guarded facilities in Hwange National Park and near Victoria Falls. The baby animals await transport overseas for sale to unidentified buyers, possibly in China or other countries, says the international elephant rights organization, Global Action Ending Wild Capture (GAEWC).
Elephant poaching rate unchanged â€“ and still devastating
New figures show essentially no change in the number of elephants killed in Africa by poachers last year, despite a high-profile meeting on the crisis which was attended by 46 countries and a number of commitments. Data from CITES' Monitoring the Illegal Killing of Elephants (MIKE) estimated that around 20,000 elephants were killed in 2014, the same as in 2013.
Conservationists announce program to protect East Africa's largest elephant population
The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and the Tanzanian government have launched an ambitious new initiative to protect East Africa's largest population of elephants (Loxodonta Africana). With funds from USAID, the plan aims to reduce poaching and protect biodiversity - including the area's 25,000 elephants- across an 115,000 square kilometer ecosystem.
China bans carved ivory imports
China has established a one-year ban on imports of carved African elephant ivory.
Videos: new film series highlights bringing Gorongosa back to life
Tracking lions, photographing bats, collecting insects, bringing elephants home: it's all part of a day's work in Gorongosa National Park. This vast wilderness in Mozambique was ravaged by civil war. However, a unique and ambitious 20-year-effort spearheaded by Greg Carr through the Gorongosa Restoration Project is working to restore this rich and little-studied African wilderness.
Video: clouded leopards and elephants grace drowned forest in Thailand
Camera trap video from Khlong Saeng Wildlife Sanctuary in southern Thailand has revealed an impressive array of wildlife, including scent-marking clouded leopards and a whole herd of Asian elephant. The camera traps were set by HabitatID, an organization devoted to using remote camera traps to prove to government officials that wildlife still flourishes in forgotten places.
California introduces bill to close ivory loophole
California congresswoman, Toni G. Atkins, introduced a bill yesterday (AB 96) that would close a major loophole allowing ivory to be sold all over the state. Thousands of miles away, across Africa, poachers are decimating elephants for their ivory tusks. A recent study estimated that one fifth of the continent's elephants have been slaughtered in just three years.
Top 10 Environmental Stories of 2014
In 2014, the unimaginable happened: companies representing the majority of palm oil production and trade agreed to stop cutting down rainforests and draining peatlands for new oil palm plantations. After years of intense campaigning by environmentalists and dire warnings from scientists, nearly two dozen major producers, traders, and buyers established zero deforestation policies.
Enough for an elephant: why are Cameroon's elephants raiding fields?
Waza National Park in West Africa is a refuge to many endangered and vulnerable species. Walk through the grounds and you may see red-fronted gazelles grazing or giraffes sauntering between trees in search of foliage. Head to the park's perimeter, though, and you may see a less serene scene: elephants raiding local farmers' crops.
Meet the world's most wanted environmental criminals
In keeping with recent efforts to ramp up action against environmental crime, INTERPOL has highlighted nine fugitives for breaking laws related to illegal logging, poaching and the wildlife trade, illegal fishing, and waste dumping, among other crimes.
Conflict-fueled deforestation, poaching in Assam continue despite truce
Northeastern India boasts nearly 44 percent of the countryâ€™s dense forests, and contains one of the most biodiverse areas in the world. However, the region lost approximately 548,440 hectares of tree coverâ€”more than 3 percentâ€”from 2001 through 2012. Sonitpur, Assam, has been particularly hard hit as people flooded into the area and cleared forest.