Mammals World Wildlife

African bush elephant

African bush elephant herd

Scientific name: Loxodonta africana

Conservation status: Very Vulnerable

The lifespan of an African bush elephant

A healthy African bush elephant can live up to 70 years. However, not many reach this age in the wild. Most elephants die due to poaching or starvation from old age.

Gestation period

The African bush elephant is one of the few large mammals that have to wait two years until their baby is born. However, due to their baby elephant’s size, they are commonly born with their legs bent. Surprisingly, these not-so-tiny baby critters, it can up to half an hour after birth that they take their first few steps. They often rely on their mother’s encouragement and their trunk for support. Once these African bush babies find their balance and become aware of their surroundings, they will begin to notice miniature tusks after six months, which will continue to grow throughout their lives. 

Infancy (0 – 2 years)

As soon as an African bush elephant is able to walk,  it will search for its mother’s breast for its first meal. As a result, the baby will stay near its mother for the next two years before it has the confidence to socialise with other members of the herd. 

Like most playful toddlers, it’s not uncommon to become separated from their mothers. Once they realise their mother isn’t at trunk’s reach, they will not hesitate to use a low-frequency sound. This low-frequency cry alerts the mother of their location, which will always be distinguished from the crowd. Although, it’s commonly known that male calves tend to drink greater quantities of milk compared to females – resulting to staying nearer to their mother’s side, and having easier access to their hourly meal. 

Juvenile (2-5 years)

After the second year of being part of the world, you will be able to notice a difference in size between genders. Males are generally bigger than the females. However, all adult females in the herd (mothers, aunts, sisters and grandmothers) will contribute to the well-being of their calves.


African bush elephant herd


Young adult (12-19 years)

When this type of elephant reaches its teen years, elephants go through physical and hormonal changes. During these years, the African bush elephants’ milk teeth (four molars) are replaced with their adult ones (around the age of 15), and continue replacing them up to six times throughout their lifespan.

Additionally, they become sexually mature. However, most teenage male elephants don’t search for a partner until they reach their 20s. It is common that during their teen years, male elephants leave their maternal herd and go in search for bachelor groups (any herd with no distinguishable alpha male), and then eventually live alone.

The females, on the other hand, stay in the same herd as their mother and other female relatives. After the age of 12, females are considered sexually ready to reproduce, but they often wait a couple of years to mate.


Mature adult (20-50 years)

Between these years, a male elephant will go in search for female herds to reproduce. Once the elephant finds a group of females, he will show off his large tusks, which represent dominance. Once it finds a young female that is interested and is secreting oestrus (the hormonal signal to indicate that she is fertile), he will mount her for a few minutes, and then spend between a few hours to a couple of weeks together, caressing each other. After two weeks, the male elephant will likely leave in search of another female. Once a female elephant becomes a mother – she will often wait to have another baby after her most recent calf is either four to six years old; when they no longer need to breastfeed.

African bush elephant after mating


Senior (50+ years)

When a female elephant reaches her 50s, she will stop having calves. Instead, she will pass on her wisdom and possibly behave like a grandmother to younger females.

When an elephant surpasses the age of 60, the adult set of teeth will no longer be replaced. Eventually, the few lucky elephants that reach between the age range of 60 and 80, they will need to be kept in captivity to help them eat; otherwise, these critters can easily starve to death.

Where can you find an African bush elephant?

You can find this critter in different countries of the Sub-Saharan Africa.

The African bush elephant diet

You’ll be surprised to know that the average amount of food consumed by an adult African bush elephant is up to 230 kg of greenery, and it drink on average 190 litres of water per day! This giant herbivore enjoys eating a variety of vegetation:

  • Small plants
  • Twigs
  • Bushes
  • Fruits
  • Grass

With the massive amount of food an bush elephant has to consume, it’s no wonder they can grow over 3 metres long and can weight up to 6,500 kg for males. As for females, they are often smaller, but they are still bigger than any other mammal you may come across!  Females can grow on average 2.6 metres long and weigh between 2,000-6,000 kg.


African bush elephant eating


How do African bush elephants survive in the heat?

During a hot afternoon, these clever critters will flap their large ears to lose body heat; especially when they are having a tasty meal.  However, whenever they aren’t eating, they will search for a fresh amount of mud or dust.  They will use their trunk to throw the dust or mud around their body, which also works as a protective layer for their sensitive skins to protect them from the sun after having a quick bath in a river.


African bush elephant using dirt


African bush elephant using mud for protection


What are the African bush elephant’s threats?

Predators (poaching)

Even though African bush elephants look like they can take care of themselves from any predators; there’s one predator they’ve always had difficulty running away from – humans. For hundreds of years humans have hunted these magnificent creatures for their ivory tusks and other parts of their bodies to keep as trophies. Fortunately, since 1977, hunting became illegal. However, the demand for ivory did not diminish. Due to a high demand of ivory for invalid Chinese medical purposes (which has been disproved to contain any medical properties) and manufacturing art, poaching became the number one reason for the vast decrease of the African bush elephant. 

It’s no secret that many countries of Africa have political and economical issues. This often results to people struggling to maintain a descent way of living. With lack of education and fair paying jobs, the very desperate individuals will result to poaching.  Even though poaching and trading is illegal, the number of elephants is still in decline. However, there are a number of organisations that dedicate themselves to stopping the unnecessary death of elephants

Lack of land and farmers

Each year elephants lose more and more space to roam, especially with areas where farmers live. These critters have a great memory of places to visit, but whenever they are met with a restriction such as fences or crops; elephants won’t hesitate to clear the path or have a quick snack. It’s a common issue that whenever an elephant destroys a year’s worth of crops, farmers feel they don’t have any other options apart from hunting or pushing away the culprit(s). This results to either starvation or getting killed in no longer inhabitable territory that they once called home.  

African bush elephant and emotions

In the last few decades, researchers have identified that elephants are one of many species of animals that go through a range of complex emotions.  This sociable creature can be quite affectionate, especially if they are related to one another. African bush elephant always have each others backs, from calf-carer to being there when there’s been  a loss.

In the last couple of decades, researchers have confirmed that whenever elephants come across a dead elephant or its bones; they will likely stay in the area for respect. They will often visit the deceased multiple and even touching or smelling the deceased or its bones. Like humans, and many other animals, elephants often go through the sense of loss. Whenever an elephant dies, its friends and family go through different stages of grief, as well as visiting the location of the deceased as part of grieving process. 

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