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Types of Elephants – The Different Species and Subspecies of Elephants

The population of elephants is less than a million globally. Wild elephants are forecasted to go extinct in a few years if commercial hunts for tusks continue.

Elephants are of the Elephantidae family with three distinct species. There are also different subspecies under these three species. This piece will highlight the different species of elephants that still exist globally.

How Many Species Of Elephants Are There?

There are three main species of elephants, with two in Africa and the other dominating the Asia continent.

  • African Forest Elephant
  • African Bush or Savannah Elephant
  • Asian Elephant

The African forest elephant was separated from the African Bush elephant as its species in 2000. Before then, we had only African elephants and Asian elephants.

Also read: What Do Elephants Eat? All About Their Favorite Food

Subspecies of African and Asian Elephants

There are several subspecies of African and Asian elephants, with the latter boasting the most surviving subspecies.

Types of elephants - Asian elephants

Asian Elephants Subspecies

Asian Elephants are generally smaller than African elephants and have the highest body points on their head. There are four subspecies of Asian elephants.

Indian Elephant: Indian elephants are subspecies of Asian elephants and primarily live in mainland Asia. Indian elephants are listed as endangered subspecies by the IUCN.

Sumatran Elephant: Sumatran elephants live in Asia, with less than 1500 living in the wild currently. They are an endangered subspecies.

Sri Lanka Elephant: Sri Lanka elephants dominate Sri Lanka in Asia and are one of the most distinctive species. They have the highest body point on their head, while their trunk tip has a single finger-like process. Some Sri Lanka male elephants may develop tusks. The entire population of Sri Lanka elephants is predicted to be around 2100 to 3000.

Borneo Elephant: Borneo elephants are one of the distinctive elephants in Asia. They generally dominate the northeastern part of Borneo in Malaysia and Indonesia. Borneo elephants are the smallest of all Asian subspecies. They have bigger ears and straighter tusks, while the adult’s tail touches the ground.

African Elephants

African elephants only have two distinct species, and they are not subspecies. The African forest elephant is a different species from the African bush elephant. The North African elephant was a subspecies of the African bush elephant but is now extinct.

African forest elephants and African bush elephants face threats of extinction. They are listed as critically endangered species on the IUCN red list.

Also read: Are Elephants Friendly? Do They Show Affection to Humans?

Elephants in forest

African Forest Elephant vs. African Bush Elephant

African bush elephants are bigger than African forest elephants. The African bush elephant is the largest and biggest of all terrestrial animals. A male bush elephant can stand as high as 4 meters which is 13.123 feet.

This height is more than the largest recorded African forest elephant at 3.96 meters or 13 feet. The tallest African bush elephant on record stood at 4.21 meters (13.8 feet).

African bush elephants have a weight range of 3000 kg to 7100 kg. African Forest elephants have a weight range of 2700 kg to 6000 kg.

African bush elephants have concave backs, while African forest elephants have straight backs.

African bush elephants have a lighter shade compared to African forest elephants.

African forest elephants’ tusks are straight, while African bush elephants’ tusk bends upwards.

The African forest elephant also has more curves in their ears compared to the African bush elephant.

Where are Elephants from?

Elephants are natives of Asia and Africa continents. The huge mammals have continued to maintain their living areas in the forests and savannahs of Asia and Africa.

Elephants depend heavily on grasses and vegetation for survival, and their current home serves the purpose perfectly, despite growing human encroachment.

Also read: Are Elephants Dangerous? Are They Aggressive to Humans?

Types of elephants - African elephant

Are Elephants Endangered?

Elephants are endangered species. It is estimated that there are currently only 450,000 to 500,000 elephants in the wild and in captivity.

Human-Elephant conflicts over the years have led to the death of many elephants. Also, the illegal harvesting of ivory tusks has led to thousands of elephants being killed annually in Asia and Africa.

African forest and bush elephants seem to bear the biggest brunt of possible extinction as enforcement of the law against elephant killing is not stringent compared to Asia.

Another reason the elephant population has continued to dwindle is its reproductive limitations. A female elephant can only conceive a baby at a time, with the pregnancy lasting roughly two years.

A mother may only birth 4 to 5 elephants in a lifetime. This reproductive rate does not match the rate at which humans kill elephants.

Also read: What Eats Elephants? Major Elephants Predators

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the Biggest Elephant Species?

The African bush (savanna) elephants are the biggest elephant species, weighing 3000 kg to 7100 kg. They can grow as high as 13 feet, with some going over the benchmark. The African bush elephant is bigger than the African forest and Asian elephants.

What are the Smallest Elephant Species?

The Borneo elephant is the smallest of all elephant species and subspecies. An adult Borneo pygmy elephant has a height of about 8.2 feet to 9.8 feet. The average weight range of a Borneo elephant is 2950 kg to 5000 kg.

Do Indian Elephants have Tusks?

Some Indian male elephant tusks, while most do not have ivory. A Study showed that Indian elephants, like most elephants, have evolved to live without growing tusks due to consistent tusk harvesting by a human.

What is Borneo Pygmy Elephant Size?

The Borneo Pygmy elephant is an Asian elephant subspecies that resides in Northeastern Borneo in Indonesia and Malaysia. It is very distinctive from other elephants due to its smaller size. An average adult Borneo elephant averages a height of 8.2 feet to 9.8 feet and a weight of 2950 Kg to 5000 kg.

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