The Butterfly Sanctuary

Bringing wildlife conservation awareness one step closer to home

All About Elephants

“What?!? There are 2 kinds of elephants?!?”

As funny as that may have sounded from my colleagues this week, I did realize not everyone knows that much about these majestic creatures beyond what they’ve seen in a zoo, circus, or the Disney classic Dumbo.

While I am no elephant expert myself, I thought it would be great to put together a side-by-side comparison to help everyone distinguish between the two types: African and Asian elephants.

African Elephant
African Elephant
Asian Elephant
Asian Elephant
Where can they be found? Sub-Saharan Africa and the rain forests of central and West Africa Mostly South and Southeast Asian countries with the largest population being in India and followed much farther by countries like Myanmar, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, and Thailand
Size Larger than Asian relative.
Height at the shoulder:  Up to 13 ft
Weight: Up to 7 tons
Smaller than African relative.
Height at the shoulder:  Up to 10 ft
Weight: Up to 6 tons
Ears Larger and longer, usually passing beyond the neck Smaller and shorter, and does not go beyond the neck
Trunks Have 2 finger-like appendages at the end of their trunks Have only 1 finger-like appendage at the end of their trunks
Tusks Found in both male and female elephants Found mostly in males with some females having much smaller, nearly invisible ones called “tushes”
Shape of Head Fuller, more rounded dome-shaped head Twin-domed head shape with an indentation in the middle
Shape of Back More concave towards the head More convex or straight
Domestication More wild and have just recently started being domesticated in the late 1800’s. More mildly mannered.  Humans have domesticated Asian elephants for more than 4 centuries.
Protection Status Threatened – Vulnerable to extinction, population is declining in the wild but still not endangered. Endangered – High risk of extinction in the wild.

Other interesting elephant facts:

  1. An elephant’s trunk is made up of over 40,000 muscles and can lift more than 300lbs (120kg).  Talk about body building!  “Look ma, no hands!”
  2. Elephants have the longest gestation period (a.k.a. pregnancy) of any mammal: A whopping 22months!  Try carrying around what would become a 200 lbs (90kg) baby in your belly for almost 2 years!
  3. Elephants travel in groups called a herd.  A herd can contain anywhere from 5 to 1,000 individual elephants (mostly females and their babies, called calves) and is led by an older female called the matriarch.  When a male elephant or bull matures, he is driven out of the herd to form a separate bachelor herd or live solitary lives until they need to mate.  Now that’s what you call girl power!
  4. There are two types of African elephants: the African bush elephant and the African forest elephant. If you want to find out more, check this website out.

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