African elephant (Loxodonta africana)

Conservation Status

Vulnerable (VU)

Physical Description

The heaviest land animal and the second tallest in the Animal Kingdom. Males are larger than females. They have enormous ears (each can be 120-125cm across) which enable heat-loss for temperature control and their distinctive nose; a long boneless trunk extending from their upper lip which can measure about 150cm long which is used for foraging, acts as a sound amplifier and is an important method of touch. They have dark grey skin which is scattered with black hairs that wear off through the years.
Weight 3600 - 6000 kg
Size Up to 4m at shoulder
Lifespan (wild) 70 years
Lifespan (captivity) 80 years


Social and Reproduction

African elephants wander day or night generally in non-territorial herds than can number in the hundreds. Their society is based on a matriarchal system; the matriarch is the oldest female who leads a clan of closely related females and offspring. Males often wander alone once they reach maturity. The matriarch determines when they eat, rest, bathe or drink. Once the matriarch reaches advanced age (50-60 years old) she is replaced by the next oldest and she is either abandoned or leaves by herself.

Mating System Polygamy (Polgyny)
Breeding interval 4 - 9 years
Breeding season none specific; reproductive rate higher during rainy seasons and lower during times of drought.
Gestation 22 months
Number of offspring 1; calves are weaned a few months before the next is born

Habitat and Food


Due to their ability to survive long periods of time without water African elephants can occupy a large variety of habitats including deserts, forests, savannas, river valleys and marshes.


Elephants eat vegetation like leaves, roots, bark, grasses and fruit. They can consume anywhere from 100 to 300 kg of food and drink up to 190 Litres of water each day.


Lions, Hyaenas, Humans; due to their size adult elephants are generally only vulnerable to killing by humans, however young calves are susceptible to be snatched by lions and hyaenas.

Conservation Challenges

Elephants have been hunted and killed by humans for their ivory (used in jewellery, sculptures, pianos and tools), for their skins (used to make blankets and clothes) and for their meat.
Their wandering and foraging can often result in the damage of crops and infrastructure

Naankuse Solutions

N/a’an ku sê fitted GPS tracking collars to 2 females from an isolated herd in northern Namibia in order to monitor their movements and more accurately assess the level of conflict they have on local farming areas.


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African elephant at Naankuse sites