The African forest elephant lives on the African continent and is slightly smaller than the African bush elephant. Forest elephants have rounder ears and straighter tusks than bush elephants, and have a different number of toe nails. Their tusks are thinner, straighter and shorter than bush elephants.
African forest elephants are found in the tropical dense jungles of central and southern Africa. They live in nomadic herds, wandering through forests and grasslands grazing for food and drinking from waterholes. They are herbivorous, eating only plants and other vegetation. Their smaller size makes it easier to move through thick vegetation. They feed predominantly on leaves and fruit from trees, herbs and shrubs. African forest elephants are essential in the spreading of seeds throughout forests.
Forest elephants use their tusks to dig for roots and to strip bark off trees. When the molars of African forest elephants wear down, a backup pair shifts forward to create two new molars. Throughout their lives they replace their teeth six times. Between the ages of 40 to 60 years old, they loose all of their teeth and often die of starvation.
Male African forest elephants are usually solitary. Females and their offspring live in small family groups, providing better protection for the baby elephants. African forest elephants communicate with a variety of visual and vocal signals, including low-frequency calls that are detectable for miles.
Forest elephants are known for their docile personalities and interact with a variety of other animal species. Tusks are used to defend themselves from predators such as lions, and to compete with other males during the mating season. Lions and hyenas hunt young, ill and old elephants.
Female African forest elephants are sexually mature around the age of 10 or 11 years old. Males do not become sexually mature until they are almost 20 years old. Following a gestation period of up to 2 years, females give birth to a single calf, or, rarely, twins. Babies are nursed for 2 years.
THREATS TO FOREST ELEPHANTS
African forest elephants are threatened by deforestation, habitat loss and poaching for their ivory. They are listed as an endangered species.