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African savanna and forest elephants

African savanna and forest elephants : Did you know that an elephant is born blind, but able to walk in the first minute? These are very interesting animals and the more you know about them, the more you realize how much of a big deal they really are. African forest elephants (Loxodonta cyclotis) and the African Savanna elephants (Loxodonta Africana) also known as the African bush elephant have a lot in common, but have also got some difference. In Uganda we have got the savannah and forest elephant and both look the same from afar but on closer inspection, there are quite several differences between the species and these include;

Size

The African savanna elephant is the largest living terrestrial animal in the world with bulls growing up to over 3 meters in height and weighing up to 8‚000 kilograms while the African forest elephant is the smallest of the two species with bulls that rarely exceed 2.5 metres and weigh around 2‚700 kilograms.

Ears

The ears of the African savanna elephant look like the shape of the African continent, and when compared to the African forest elephant are much bigger and reach up and over the neck while the ears of the African forest elephant are more oval-shaped.

Tusks

The African forest elephants have tusks that are straight and point downward while the African savanna elephants have tusks that are curved.

Nails

There is a difference between the number of nails on each of the species’ feet; the African savanna elephant has got 4 nails on the front feet and 3 on the back feet while the African forest elephants has got 5 nails on the front feet and 4 on the back feet.

Family groups

African forest elephants live in family groups of just a few members while African savanna elephants live in family groups of about ten members and often congregate in groups of 70 and above.

Habitat

African savanna elephants occupy the savannah, grassland and desert ecosystems of sub-Sahara Africa while the African forest elephants are found in lowland tropical, subtropical rainforests and woodlands of central western Africa.

Feeding

Though they both feed on trees, herbs and fruits depending on their ability, the African savannah elephants have a lower diversity of forage than the forest elephants and their seed dispersal and brush clearing maintains the savannah landscape and promotes plant and animal diversity within their range, whereas the African forest elephants are allowed the luxury of being highly frugivorous due to them living in the rain forests. The seed dispersal provided by the African forest elephants is crucial to the maintenance of tree diversity in Central Africa which houses the world’s second largest rainforest.

Threats

African savanna elephants are threatened by the rapidly spreading poaching crisis, human-elephant conflicts, loss of habitat, climate change resulting in depleted water sources and barriers to their movement while African forest elephants are threatened by historical and current rampant poaching, trade pressures, habitat conversation due to the expansion of natural resource extraction and logging, and civil unrest.

Where they are found in Uganda

While on a wildlife safari in Uganda, the African savanna elephants can be encountered and viewed in Kidepo valley national park, Murchison falls national park and Queen Elizabeth national park, whereas the African forest elephants are found in Bwindi Impenetrable national park, Mgahinga gorilla national park, Kibale forest national park and some in Semiliki national park.

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