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Forest Elephants

At AFEF, we are passionate about conserving the African Forest Elephant and its unique habitat. Our mission is to protect and conserve this endangered species and the other species that call this habitat home. We strive to create a sustainable future for the African Forest Elephant and its environment by educating the public and advocating for responsible policy.

Did you know that there are actually two distinct species of elephant on the African continent?


Only very recently (March 2021) were the forest elephants recognised and assessed as a serrate independent species by the International Union for Conservation (IUCN) and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). Sadly, forest elephants were assessed as 'critically endangered', with savanna elephants being listed as 'endangered'. This new classification gives forest elephants the independent recognition needed to tailor conservation strategies to their specific needs.

Scientific evidence supports the fact that forest and savanna elephants spilt from each other 5-6 million years ago. There are two distinct species of elephant: the African savanna elephant Loxodonta africana and the African forest elephant Loxodonta cyclotis.


Take a look below to see how the two species differ…


Forest elephants extend from Guinea in West Africa, through Liberia, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Togo, Benin, and Nigeria, and into the Central african forests of Cameroon, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, the Congo, Central African Republic, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

To the east, forest elephants can still be found in Uganda, and possibly Rwanda, and to the south a population still exists in the isolated Cabinda of Angola.


Forest Elephant Facts

Common Name: Forest elephants

Scientific Name: Loxodonta cyclotis

Location: West and Central Africa

Habitat: Forest

Height: 2.4 – 3 metres

Weight: 2 -5 tonnes

First pregnancy: 23 years

Gestation Period: 22 – 24 months

Time between pregnancies: 5 – 6 years

Population doubling time: 60 years


Did you know that there are actually two distinct species of elephant on the African continent?


Morphological (physical) and genetic evidence clearly points to two species, namely: the African savanna elephant (Loxodonta africana) and the African forest elephant (Loxodonta cyclotis).

Have a look at the photos and read below to see how the two species differ…

Different Species

Forest elephants are smaller than their savannah cousins; have straighter, downward-pointing tusks; smoother skin, rather than the moisture-collecting wrinkled skin of savannah elephants; and rounder ears, from which they derive their Latin name Loxodonta cyclotis.

They live in smaller family groups than savanna elephants and have a very different diet, with a penchant toward fruit when available.

An easy way to tell the forest elephant and the savanna elephant apart is by counting toenails. An elephant foot has 5 toes but not every toe has a nail. The African forest elephant and the Asian elephant both have 5 toenails on the front feet and 4 on the back feet. The larger Savanna elephant has 4 or sometimes 5 on the front feet and only 3 on the back.

The most important distinction of all is that, although both species are threatened, the forest elephant is in much more serious danger of becoming extinct. According to recent studies, poachers have slaughtered 65% of the world’s remaining forest elephant population in just 12 years.

Savannah elephant facts
  • Name: Savannah elephant (Loxodonta africana)

  • Location: Eastern and Southern Africa

  • Height: 3.0 – 4.0 metres

  • Weight: 4 – 7 tonnes

Forest elephant facts
  • Name: African forest elephant (Loxodonta cyclotis)

  • Location: West & Central Africa

  • Height: 2.4 – 3.0 metres

  • Weight: 4 – 5 tonnes



We need your help to make a difference. Your donations will go a long way towards helping us protect these incredible creatures. Donate today and join us in our mission to protect forest elephants.

Find out more about the forest..

Forest elephants are found only in the forests of West and Central Africa. Click here to find out more about where they live.

Ecological importance

The importance of African elephants in the ecology of their natural habitat needs to be brought to public attention if we are realistically going to be able to turn the tide of the devastating decline of Africa’s elephant populations – and in particular the largely unreported decline of African forest elephants.  Forest elephants, as ‘gardeners of the forest’, have an ecological role far beyond their potential value in tourism, and they are a crucial factor in the existence of the tropical rainforests of Africa that exist today.

The Earth’s forests have a vital and irreplaceable role in maintaining climate stability, producing the ozone which forms the protective barrier layer at the edge of the Earth’s atmosphere which shields us from the radiation of the sun and allows all life, and human life itself, to exist.  Tropical rainforests are also pivotal factors in global weather patterns and generating the rainfall which sustains the animal and plant life upon which we all depend to survive.  The Central African forest and it’s elephants, have an importance from a local to global scale and we must save them.


About the forest

The rainforest of the Congo Basin is the second largest on Earth, second only to the Amazon rainforest, that extends from the Atlantic coast in the west to the mountains of the Albertine Rift in the east and spans the equator by nearly 7 degrees north and south. It extends through many countries including Cameroon, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon and the Republic of the Congo.

Read more HERE



Gardeners of the forest

The forest elephants are the “gardeners of the forest”. These majestic creatures play an important role in maintaining healthy forest ecosystems.


We strive to raise awareness and provide support for the conservation of these animals and their habitat. Our mission is to ensure that future generations can appreciate and enjoy the beauty and majesty of forest elephants. With our help, these incredible creatures can continue to be the ecosystem engineers and vital parts of the forest ecosystem that they are meant to be.


Threats & Decline

The African Forest Elephant, one of the most threatened species on the planet. Unfortunately, they are currently facing threats from poaching, habitat destruction, and the illegal wildlife trade. We are passionate about protecting this majestic animal from the numerous threats it faces and reversing the decline in its population. Learn more about our projects and how you can help us make a difference HERE

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