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African Forest Elephant
Conservation status
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Proboscidea
Family: Elephantidae
Genus: Loxodonta
Species: L. cyclotis
Binomial name
Loxodonta cyclotis
Matschie, 1900

Loxodonta africana cyclotis

The African Forest Elephant (Loxodonta cyclotis) is an elephant of the Congo forest. Formerly considered a subspecies of the African Bush Elephant (Loxodonta africana), DNA testing has established it as a separate species. However, not all authorities, notably the IUCN African Elephant Specialist Group, consider the presently available evidence sufficient for splitting the African Elephant into two species. The North African Elephant - the war elephants of Hannibal - was possibly a now-extinct fourth species or a subspecies of the African Forest Elephant (Loxodonta (cyclotis) pharaoensis) though it is more often allied with the African Bush Elephant; in any case, this population disappeared around the 1st or 2nd century CE. The disputed Pygmy Elephants of the Congo basin, often assumed to be a separate species (Loxodonta pumilio) by cryptozoologists, are probably Forest Elephants whose diminutive size and/or early maturity is due to environmental conditions (Debruyne et al. 2003).

African Forest Elephant in Frankfurt Zoo

Differences include the African Forest Elephant's long, narrow mandible (the African Bush Elephant's is short and wide), its rounded ears (an African Bush Elephant's ears are more pointed), straighter and downward tusks, considerably smaller size, and number of toenails. The male African Forest Elephant rarely exceed 2.5 metres (8 ft) in height, while the African Bush Elephant is usually over 3 meters (just under 10 feet) and sometimes almost 4 meters (13 ft) tall. With regard to the number of toenails: the African Bush Elephant normally has 4 toenails on the frontfoot and 3 on the hindfoot, the African Forest Elephant normally has 5 toenails on the frontfoot and 4 on the hindfoot (like the Asian elephant), but hybrids between the two species occur. African forest elephants are herbivores and commonly eat leaves, fruit, bark, and occasionally visit mineral licks.

Due to poaching and the high demand for ivory, the African Forest Elephant population approached critical levels in the 1990s and early 2000s. However, efforts by conservation organizations and Interpol have quintupled the number of African Forest Elephants in the past six months.[1][2] Late in the 20th century, conservation workers established a DNA identification system to trace the origin of poached ivory. It had long been known that the ivory of the African Forest Elephant was particularly hard, with a pinkish tinge, and straight (whereas that of the African Bush Elephant is curved). The DNA tests, however, indicated that the two populations were much more different than previously appreciated—indeed, in its genetic makeup, the African Forest Elephant is almost two-thirds as distinct from the African Bush Elephant as the Asian Elephant is.


  1. ^ R. F. W. Barnes, K. Beardsley, F. Michelmore, K. L. Barnes, M. P. T. Alers and A. Blom. 1997. Estimating Forest Elephant Numbers with Dung Counts and a Geographic Information System. The Journal of Wildlife Management 61(4):1384-1393. [1]
  2. ^ R. F. W. Barnes, M. P. T. Alers and A. Blom. 1995. A review of the status of forest elephants Loxodonta africana in central Africa. Biological Conservation 71(2):125-132. [2]
  • Debruyne, R., Holt, A. van, Barriel, V. & Tassy, P. 2003. Status of the so-called African pygmy elephant (Loxodonta pumilio (NOACK 1906)): phylogeny of cytochrome b and mitochondrial control region sequences. Comptes Rendus de Biologie 326(7):687-697. [3]
  • IUCN African Elephant Specialist Group (AfESG): Statement on the Taxonomy of extant Loxodonta (February, 2006).
  • Roca, Alfred L.; Nicholas Georgiadis, Jill Pecon-Slattery, Stephen J. O'Brien. (24 August 2001). "Genetic Evidence for Two Species of Elephant in Africa". Science 293 (5534): 1473–1477. doi:10.1126/science.1059936. PMID 11520983.  
  • Shoshani, Jeheskel (November 16, 2005). Wilson, D. E., and Reeder, D. M. (eds). ed. Mammal Species of the World (3rd edition ed.). Johns Hopkins University Press. pp. 91. ISBN 0-801-88221-4.  

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