Mike Unwin
United Kingdom GB
May 21, 2014 May 21, 2014

Mike is an award winning wildlife writer, editor of Travel Zambia magazine and author of the Bradt Guide to Southern African Wildlife.

Categories: African Wildlife, The Big Five

African elephant (Loxodonta africana)

This immense herbivore needs very little introduction. The African elephant is not only the biggest of the Big Five, but it is also the biggest land animal on the planet. Quite apart from its size, no animal with ears like kitchen tables and a nose that can pull down trees should pose much of an identification problem. Meanwhile, its complex lifestyle and social behavior continue to baffle scientists. 

5 Fascinating Facts

Here are a few bits of intriguing info on the African elephant. Did you know that....

  1. An African elephant is right- or left-tusked, just as people are right- or left- handed. The preferred tusk is generally the blunter and shorter one, hence this is the tusk that gets worn down by doing most of the work.
  2. A female elephant gives birth only once every five years, after a gestation period of 22 months. This slow breeding rate explains why elephants devote so much care and attention to their offspring.
  3. Elephants can communicate across distances of up to 5km, using low-frequency rumbles, known as infrasound. These sounds are below the limit of human hearing.
  4. It is no myth that elephants ‘never forget’. These intelligent mammals possess a developed sense of memory that allows them to recognize a long-lost member of their social group. Additionally, they even grieve for dead relatives and harbor grudges against other elephants – or even people.
  5. Most scientists now recognize two distinct species of African elephant: the African bush elephant (Loxodonta africana) and the African forest elephant (Loxodonta cyclotis). The latter inhabits equatorial forest regions and is  smaller in size, has more rounded ears and straighter tusks.

The African wild is not a petting zoo

Ever ride an elephant at your local petting zoo? Most of us have. However, when your're on safari, you must  remember that these elephants belong to the wild, and not the petting zoo. Or, to quote Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz: "We're not in Kansas anymore, Toto!" Make sure to exercise caution. If you want more information on African wildlife tours, go to the SafariBookings website and drop us a line.