What is an African Forest Elephant?

Spread from If Elephants Disappeared, published by Roaring Brook Press September 2019.

When we think of elephants, we think of the African Savanna Elephant and the Asian Elephant… but did you know there is a third elephant? Smaller than the African Savanna Elephant, and as genetically diverse from it as the Wooly Mammoth, the African Forest Elephant can be found in the rainforests in the Congo Basin.

When starting my research for If Elephants Disappeared, I didn’t even know there was a third type of elephant! I picked the African Forest Elephant for If Elephants Disappeared because it had the most scientific data around its impact on its environment, the African Rainforest. This is probably my favorite part of nonfiction work: you have to go where the research leads you — which may often be a surprise! In this case, the research did surprise me.

Below are some fun facts about the smallest African Elephant: The African Forest Elephant!

Fun Facts:

  • Due to the dense African Forests concealing the elephants, there is no exact knowledge on population size. It has to be roughly estimated due to counting the dung!
  • The fact that they are hard to find in the forest makes them hard to conserve.
  • They look different than the African Savanna Elephant with their straighter tusks and more rounded ears.
  • Both male and female forest elephants have tusks!
  • They can grow to be roughly 8-10 feet tall (the Savanna Elephant can grow to be roughly 10-13 feet tall).
  • They are found only in West Africa and live in the dense tropical rainforests there.
  • Their poop (dung) is incredibly important to the health of the African rainforests!
  • Like all elephants, African Forest Elephants are hunted and poached for their ivory tusks and bushmeat.
  • They can live around 60-70 years of age.
  • It takes them 22-24 months to give birth to a baby. Meaning the females are pregnant for 2 years!
  • They have the most diverse diet of any animal — eating over 300 different species of plants!

Learn more about African Forest Elephants: