Elephants are large distinct mammals found naturally in Africa and Asia. Elephants are easy to spot due to their long trunks which they use for a variety of purposes. The presence of a trunk is the primary reason that elephants are classified under the order Proboscidea, and they are the only surviving family within the genus. Elephants live for a relatively long time with the oldest individual living to 86 years. Elephants have proven to be more intelligent than most animals in the wild, and they mourn the death of fellow elephants. Elephants were integral to several great ancient armies such as Hannibal's army. Much of the terrain that elephants inhabited has been used for human settlement reducing the amount of land available for the animals.
Native Habitats of Elephants
Two species of elephants live on the African continent, and they are the African bush elephant and the African forest elephant. A third species, the Asian elephant, resides in Southeast Asia.
African Forest Elephant
The African forest elephant, which is the smallest living species of elephant, reside mainly in forests. For a while, both African elephant species were considered one until scientists confirmed that they are distinct and diverged at least 2 million years ago. The natural habitat for the species is African forests, particularly in the Congo basin. Their preferred habitat is areas with dense rainforest cover. The population of African forest elephants is estimated at 100,000 individuals with a vast majority living in the forests of Gabon. Significant populations of African forest elephants are also found in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia, and Cameroon.
African Bush Elephant
The African bush elephant is by far the largest living species of elephant and is also the biggest gigantic land animal. The African bush elephants cover long distances within their habitats in search of food as they consume nearly 496 lbs of vegetation daily. Their habitat is diverse ranging from grasslands to semi-desert areas. Several elephants are living within the Namib and Sahara deserts. Bush elephants are classified as vulnerable as their population is at 300,000 individuals. Most wild bush elephants are located in Sub-Saharan African states such as Kenya and Angola. Botswana has more African bush elephants than any other nation with a population of 118,736 elephants. The population in several countries such as Kenya is falling rapidly due to poaching and habitat loss.
The Asian elephant is an endangered species of elephant that resides in Southeast Asia. There are three subspecies of Asian elephants unique because of their location. The Sri Lankan subspecies is native to Sri Lanka and currently lives in the drier regions of the country. There are at least 2,100 wild elephants in Sri Lanka. The Indian elephant is native to the mainland regions of Asia with a total population of at least 24,000 individuals. Another subspecies of the Asian elephant is the Sumatran elephant native to Sumatra. The wild Sumatran elephant consists of at least 2,500 individuals making it one of the most critically endangered elephant subspecies.
Threats Facing Elephants
Elephant populations around the world are decreasing mainly due to poaching. Habitat loss is also a significant challenge facing elephant populations worldwide. Several organizations such as Save the Elephants and the International Fund for Animal Welfare work to reduce the risk facing the elephants.