Elephants are the largest land mammals on Earth and can eat up to 50 tonnes of food annually. Yet, did you know that these majestic animals have no real predators in the wild? One of the more unfortunate elephant facts reveals that people are the only real danger to these animals.
What’s more, despite the 1989 ban on international ivory sales, elephants are still being hunted down and poached for their tusks; black market sales have increased exponentially. As a result, the overall number of elephants left in the wild is diminishing — hence why we must put a stop to poaching, once and for all!
Keep on scrolling to find out more interesting facts about these majestic animals!
But first, let’s take a look at some facts and figures regarding elephants:
Top 10 Facts About Elephants (Editor’s Pick)
- There are three distinct elephant species — the African Savannah elephant, the African Forest elephant, and the Asian elephant.
- An adult elephant needs to eat up to 150kg of food every day.
- An elephant’s eyesight has a range of only 25 feet.
- Elephant trunks can lift up as much as 770 pounds.
- Elephants’ romantic relationships last forever.
- An elephant pregnancy lasts for 22 months.
- Baby elephants weigh 250 pounds at birth.
- Elephant statistics show that there are roughly 415,000 African elephants left in the wild as of 2019.
- There are approximately 30 white elephants left in the world.
- More than 100,000 African elephants have been killed in just three years.
If these quick facts got you interested, keep reading to learn more fascinating facts and stats about the Earth’s biggest land mammal!
Interesting Facts About Elephants
1. There are three distinct elephant species — the African Savannah elephant, the African Forest elephant, and the Asian elephant.
(National Geographic Kids)
Elephants are renowned for their tusks, big ears, and trunks. Moreover, there’s actually a neat trick to differentiate the African and Asian Elephant — their famous ears! The African elephant has big ears, shaped much like the African continent, whereas the Asian elephant’s ears are much smaller and shaped like India, as well-known elephants’ ears facts reveal.
2. An adult elephant needs to eat up to 150kg of food every day.
Elephants are herbivores; meaning, their diet consists primarily of plants. Most often they eat grass, leaves, flowers, and even woody parts of trees and shrubs, including fruit when it’s available. They also dig for roots after rain. The Asian elephant eats more than 100 species of plants, and both the African and Asian elephants eat crops such as millet.
3. Elephant fun facts reveal that an average adult elephant makes about one tonne of poo every week.
(National Geographic Kids)
Since elephants spend somewhere between 12 and 18 hours a day eating, there has to be an awful lot of poop. However, their poop is extremely useful since it fertilizes the soil and disperses tree seeds. In addition, elephants dig water holes and make footpaths, changing the very landscape around them.
4. According to elephant feet facts, the foot of an elephant is about half the width of its shoulder.
This is how scientists are able to determine the size of an elephant merely by measuring the size of its footprint. What’s more, elephant feet have five toes, yet not all their toes have toenails. The toes are formed in such a way that when an elephant walks, they are actually walking on their tiptoes.
5. About 50% of Asian female elephants have short tusks (tushes), according to elephant tusks facts.
Another main difference between the Asian and African elephants is their tusks. All African elephants have tusks, both male and female, whereas only some Asian elephants have them, and females have “tushes.” Basically, elephants’ tusks are elongated teeth, which never stop growing. Elephants use their tusks primarily for self-defense, to dig, and lift and move heavy objects.
6. Besides tusks, elephants also have 4 molars (teeth).
(International Elephant Foundation)
As the fun facts about elephants state, there is one molar in each jaw. An African elephant usually goes through six sets of molars during their lifetime. Each molar can grow between 10 and 12 inches and can weigh over 8 pounds. The final set of molars form when the elephant is in their forties, and it lasts them till the end of their lifetime.
7. An elephant’s eyesight has a range of only 25 feet.
According to the interesting elephant facts, the animal has fairly poor eyesight and their eyes are incredibly small. The reason for this is the position and size of their head and neck. In addition to this, elephants also have limited peripheral vision. Their eyesight improves slightly in the forest shade.
8. Elephant trunks can lift up as much as 770 pounds.
An elephant’s trunk is actually a fusion of their upper lip and nose, used to touch, smell, breathe, grasp, and make sounds. Elephant trunk facts reveal that the trunk has no bones and that it actually consists of more than 40,000 muscles that are divided into 150,000 individual units. For comparison, the entire human body has only 639 muscles. Besides all of these functions, the elephant’s trunk also serves as a snorkel. All the elephant has to do is keep their trunk above water, and they can cross any body of water they want.
9. Elephant memory facts reveal that elephants can recognize up to 30 companions by either smell or sight.
Their memory is astonishing. They remember each member of their herd, yet their memory is not limited to just their herd or species. There are circus elephants who have performed together and have recognized each other after decades of separation. Moreover, elephants can also recognize people they have bonded with, even though they may have been separated for years, as some elephant facts claim.
10. Elephants are exceptionally intelligent animals.
Their overall behavior is proof of this. For example, the African elephant can distinguish between people’s age, gender, and ethnicity solely based on the sound of their voice. Moreover, not only do they identify languages, but elephants are also capable of understanding the human body language. They can also mimic people’s voices, show empathy, and mourn their dead. In addition to all this, elephant intelligence facts also show that they’re able to use various tools to reach fruit or use sticks to scratch themselves (just like in the cartoons).
11. An elephant’s tail can be up to 1.3m long.
Elephants have amazing control over the movement of their tails. They usually use them as fly swats against various insects. Besides being quite long, the elephant’s tail is also tipped by extremely coarse hair that looks like wires.
Facts About Elephants and Their Family
12. An elephant family typically consists of 6 to 12 members, but it can count up to 20 members.
Herds have a matriarchal head, and they usually consist of 3 or 4 female elephants (the matriarch’s daughters), and their calves. The females help each other while giving birth, and they also keep an eye on each other’s calves. When the matriarch dies, one of her daughters (usually the eldest) replaces her.
13. Elephants’ romantic relationships last forever.
One of the sweetest elephant facts about love is that they’re incredibly romantic creatures. Elephants are highly social and bond fairly easily. They touch each other, cuddle, and intertwine their trunks, just like people hold hands, which is the ultimate sign of love between them. Usually, their relationships last for a lifetime.
14. An elephant pregnancy lasts for 22 months.
Elephants are huge in every way. Besides being the largest land animal, they also have the longest gestation period among all mammals. As elephant pregnancy facts state, the gestation period can last anywhere between 620 and 680 days, which adds up to almost two years. Typically, the intervals between two pregnancies vary between 4 and 6 years.
15. Approximately 99% of elephants are born at night.
Baby elephants are called calves, and they usually stay close to their mothers for the first couple of months after they’re born. Baby elephants suck their trunks just like human babies suck thumbs, as baby elephant facts explain. When they reach 6 to 8 months, the calves learn to use their trunks to eat and drink.
16. Baby elephants weigh 250 pounds at birth.
They are also approximately 3 feet tall and have curly black or red hair on their foreheads. Elephant calves drink milk from their mother for up to ten years after being born, drinking up to 3 gallons of milk every day, as elephant birth facts claim. Female elephants stay with their herd for the entirety of their life, whereas male elephants start a solitary life between the ages of 12 and 14.
17. Baby elephants start walking just minutes after being born.
(Elephants for Africa)
The reason for this is that they must stand to be able to drink their mother’s milk, or they’ll perish. They also follow their mothers and observe their behavior in order to adapt to their new surroundings.
African Elephant Facts
18. The largest ever recorded elephant was an African male, weighing 24,000 pounds.
(Global Sanctuary for Elephants)
He was also 13 feet tall, at the shoulder. For comparison, an average car weighs approximately 4,000 pounds, and an average one-story home is approximately 8 feet tall. African elephants live on the majority of the African continent, south of the Sahara desert.
19. African elephant’s brain weighs 5.4kg.
(United for Wildlife)
One of the most fascinating elephant facts is the size of their brain. We’ve already noted that nothing about this animal species is small, so it comes as no surprise that the largest land animal on Earth also has the largest brain of all land animals.
20. There are roughly 415,000 African elephants left in the wild.
African elephants wander through 37 African countries, and their natural habitat includes flooded grasslands and savannahs, tropical and subtropical moist broadleaf forests, Acacia savannahs, and Miombo woodlands. The African elephant population is rather small, yet their official status is vulnerable, and not endangered.
21. There are two species of the African elephant — the African Forest elephant and the African Savannah (Bush) elephant.
For a fairly long time, scientists thought that these two species were merely subspecies of the African elephant. However, DNA analysis has revealed that these two are actually two different species. What’s more, the two species have evolved from a common ancestor, as African Bush elephant facts reveal, somewhere between 2.5 million and 5 million years ago.
22. African Savannah elephants are the larger species — they grow up to 13 feet high, and weigh up to 7 tons.
Savanna elephants are renowned for their enormous ears that help them radiate excess heat and their front legs that are quite longer than their hind legs. The species lives in the southern and eastern regions of Africa, according to facts about African elephants. This particular species lives predominantly in Tanzania, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Kenya, South Africa, and Mozambique.
23. The African Forest elephant is the smaller species, growing up to “just” 10 feet, and weighing up to 5 tons.
Their ears are not as big as the African Savannah elephants’ and are also oval-shaped; tusks are also straighter and pointed downwards. They live in dense tropical forests, so their exact numbers can’t be counted as precisely, or as easily. African Forest elephant facts state that they usually live in dense forests of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, the Central African Republic, Ghana, and Liberia.
24. African Forest elephants reach reproductive maturity at the age of 23.
They have the slowest reproductive rate of all three species. Taking into account the two-year gestation period, any population decline caused by either poaching, bushmeat trade, logging operations, or natural resource extraction could be fatal for the species.
Asian Elephant Facts and Information
25. The Asian elephant can grow up to 9.8 feet, and weigh up to 5.5 tons.
Asian elephants are quite smaller than their African counterparts, and they are classified as endangered species. Illegal ivory trade and habitat loss due to deforestation and agricultural development, are two main threats to Asian elephants.
26. There are three subspecies of the Asian elephant — the Indian elephant, the Sumatran elephant, and the Sri Lankan elephant.
Indian elephant facts state that this subspecies makes up for the majority of the remaining Asian elephants. The Sri Lankan elephant is physically the largest of the three subspecies and has the darkest skin, whereas the Sumatran elephant is the smallest of the three.
27. Only 7% of male Thailand elephants have tusks.
The females have tushes, as previously mentioned, and the whole species has only one trunk finger, which they use to pick up and move objects, as the Thailand elephants facts state. Their ears are also much smaller than those of their African cousins, and their skin is smoother.
28. Thailand had approximately 20,000 elephants trained for war back in the 17th century.
The elephant is a royal symbol in Thailand, and the Thai Royal Family has kept them for thousands of years. Besides taking part in ceremonies and festivals held in their honor, they were also used as war animals. Amazing facts about elephants reveal that their strength, size, power, and longevity, made them the perfect weapon, as well as shields, in battle.
29. There are between 2,400 and 2,800 Sumatran elephants left in the wild.
The smallest of the subspecies, but the biggest mammal on the Sumatran island, is critically endangered. Usually, these elephants love to roam the forests of Sumatra and Borneo, and can even climb up to 300 meters uphill, as Sumatran elephant facts reveal. Because of their size, Sumatran elephants have practically no predators; although, sometimes, tigers tend to prey on baby Sumatran elephants.
30. Less than 8.2 feet tall, the Borneo pygmy elephant is the smallest elephant in the world.
(Natural Habitat Adventures)
They are a part of the Sumatran elephant subspecies derived from the Sundaic stock some 300,000 years ago. The primary threat to these elephants is habitat loss, and the Borneo pygmy elephant facts reveal that there are approximately 1,500 of these elephants left in the world. Moreover, 20% of the subspecies are hurt by illegal snares that were set to catch smaller animals.
31. There are less than 4,000 Sri Lankan elephants left in the world.
The largest of the three Asian elephant subspecies is also highly endangered, with between 2,500 and 4,000 elephants left in the wild. According to the Sri Lankan elephants facts, the subspecies were spread out across the Sri Lankan forests, but are now facing habitat loss due to rapid deforestation and urbanization.
32. There are only 30 white elephants left in the world.
(Travel Triangle) (USA Today)
Thailand is known as the “Land of White Elephants,” and for centuries these majestic creatures were viewed as a sign of the king’s magnificence. They are extremely rare, albino elephants, and they are not actually white, but rather pinkish in color. White elephant numbers have always been low, but the species is alarmingly close to extinction. Royals used to pamper them, and many people believed that they brought good luck to the country.
33. Elephants can live up to 70 years in the wild.
The African elephant lives a bit longer than the Asian and has a median lifespan of 56 years. On the other hand, their Asian cousins have a median lifespan of just 41.7 years. Poaching, illegal hunting for ivory, deforestation, and urbanization are shortening their lifespans.
Elephant Poaching Statistics
34. Elephant poaching rates have decreased from more than 10% in 2011 to 4% in 2017.
Elephant poaching rates have peaked in 2011, but even though they are currently pretty low, the species are still endangered (the Asian elephant in particular), or on the verge of becoming endangered (the African elephant).
35. Over the last decade, the number of elephants has dropped by 62%.
(World Elephant Day)
If the killing rates continue, elephant poaching statistics from 2018 show that by the end of the next decade elephants could become completely extinct. Elephants are being hunted and poached for their ivory, whose price in China has tripled from 2010 to 2014.
36. 361 elephants have died in Sri Lanka in 2019.
This is a record number ever since Sri Lanka became independent in 1948. Unfortunately, the majority of these elephants were killed by people, but according to the elephant poaching statistics from 2019, there are still approximately 7,500 elephants in Sri Lanka.
37. More than 100,000 African elephants have been killed in just three years.
Just in 2011, 1 in every 12 elephants was killed by poachers; researchers estimate that every year 3% of the total population of elephants was poached. Elephants are a crucial species since they help balance out other species in the ecosystem. Losing them would be horrific.
38. Elephant statistics from 2019 show that there are approximately 415,000 African elephants left in the wild.
There are some pockets of African elephants that are safe from poachers and are currently expanding, particularly those in southern Africa. However, the number of elephants in central and some parts of east Africa is dramatically low. There are barely over 400,000 elephants left, and the species is incredibly vulnerable.
39. There are only 40,000 to 50,000 Asian elephants left in the world.
Elephant poaching statistics reveal that the number of Asian elephants has dropped by more than 50% over the course of the past three generations. One common thing for both the Asian and African elephants is that their numbers have dropped significantly during the 19th and 20th centuries, mainly due to poaching.
40. How many elephants are born each year?
More elephants are killed than born at the moment. Seeing how elephants give birth to only one calf at a time (twins are possible, but extremely rare), that their gestation period is around two years, and that there is a 4–6-year gap between pregnancies, it’s no surprise that their rate of birth is so low.
41. How many elephants are killed every day?
It’s estimated that around 100 African elephants are killed every day, for their ivory, meat, and body parts, leaving barely 400,000 of them on the planet.
42. How many elephants are left in the world in 2020?
There were predictions that by 2020 elephants would be extinct, but there are currently about 465,000 elephants in the Asian and African wilds.
43. How many elephants are killed each year?
Unfortunately, the data shows that about 20,000 African elephants are being killed every year.
44. What percentage of African elephants are killed each year?
In the last decade, more than 64% of African elephants have been killed. It’s estimated that every year 8% of African Savanna elephants are killed, as well as 1 in 12 elephants of the entire species.
45. How smart is an elephant?
Elephants are impressively smart. They have been using objects from their vicinity to swat insects, reach food, or scratch themselves. They are also known for mourning their dead, distinguishing different languages, and remembering people.
46. What do elephants do for the ecosystem?
They plant trees, fight climate change (in their own way), and support other species by fertilizing the land and digging waterholes.
47. Why are elephants so special?
Besides being highly intelligent and emotional creatures, elephants help the ecosystem and maintain biodiversity.
48. What are elephants scared of?
It’s a cartoon myth that elephants are afraid of mice. They are actually afraid of bees because African honey bees are known to be extremely aggressive.
49. Are elephants dangerous to humans?
Generally, elephants are not dangerous. However, when male elephants reach their reproductive age (musth), they are extremely dangerous to both people and animals due to their reproductive hormones.
50. Are elephants endangered?
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) classifies the African elephant as vulnerable, whereas the Asian elephant is an endangered species.
51. What are elephant tusks used for?
Elephants use their tusks for defense, offense, digging, lifting heavy objects, gathering food, or striping tree barks so they could eat from trees, and they also protect the trunk.
We hope that this long list of elephant facts has shown you what majestic creatures they are, and why we should try to protect them as much as we can. We must raise awareness and put an end to poaching and illegal ivory trade. Perhaps then, the population of this amazing species can increase in numbers, and stop itself from becoming extinct.
- A-Z Animals
- Culture Trip
- Discover Wildlife
- Elephants for Africa
- Elephants Forever
- Global Sanctuary for Elephants
- International Elephant Foundation
- Mental Floss
- National Geographic
- National Geographic
- National Geographic
- National Geographic Kids
- Natural Habitat Adventures
- Science News
- Travel Triangle
- United for Wildlife
- USA Today
- World Elephant Day