at the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy in Northern Kenya.
African bush elephant at the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy in Northern Kenya. © Ami Vitale

Animals We Protect

African Bush Elephant

Loxodonta africana

Meet the African Bush Elephant

The African bush elephant is the largest land mammal in the world. It reaches up to 24 feet in length and 13 feet in height. Also known as the African savanna elephant, it is found in most African countries, living in varied habitats from the open savanna to the desert and high rainforest. It is the largest of the three elephant species and can weigh up to 11 tons and live up to 70 years—longer than any other mammal except humans. African bush elephants are herbivores and need to eat about 350 pounds of vegetation daily.

The African bush elephant is characterized by:

  • two prominent tusks, which are present in both sexes 

  • two large ears

  • pillar-like legs

  • thickset body 

  • large head with a muscular, mobile trunk. 

The trunk is a strong appendage, with more than 40,000 muscles and tendons. Its sensitive tip ends in two finger-like projections, which can manipulate small objects. The trunk can lift objects of more than 400 pounds. Water is sucked up through the trunk and then blown into the mouth for a drink or onto the back as a cooling mist.

Elephant herds consist of related females and their young and are managed by the eldest female, called the matriarch. The adult male elephant rarely joins a herd and leads a solitary life, only approaching herds during mating season. Females give birth to a single calf after 22 months of gestation, the longest gestation period among mammals.

African elephants at Loisaba Conservancy in northern Kenya.
Elephants-Loisaba African elephants at Loisaba Conservancy in northern Kenya. © Ami Vitale

Protecting the African Bush Elephant

Because elephants require substantial amounts of food and a large area in which to forage, habitat destruction across their range is a major threat to survival. As of late, poaching has caused the most serious damage to African bush elephant populations, with approximately 25,000 being lost every year. 

The Nature Conservancy is using a comprehensive three-pronged approach to elephant protection:

  • Building Community Support: working with farmers near elephant habitats to help track and safely steer elephants off agricultural lands.

  • Conserving Critical Habitat: protecting large contiguous swaths of land that are vital for traveling elephant herds.

  • Increasing Security: safeguarding elephants from poaching by expanding, training and properly equipping wildlife security teams.