Date Published

Save the Elephants welcomes the official recognition that elephants in Africa are of two distinct species: the forest elephant, and the savannah elephant. The decision by the African Elephant Specialist Group is based on the genetic differences between the two groups, and comes after decades of debate.

The smaller forest elephants (Loxodonta cyclotis) range across central Africa and parts of west Africa, and feature smaller ears and straighter, more downward-pointing tusks. Savannah elephants (Loxodonta africana) range across eastern & southern Africa, as well as some northern parts of central and western Africa. Where the two species meet (most notably in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo) hybrids can occur.

As a result of the move, forest elephants will change their conservation status on the IUCN Red List from Vulnerable to Critically Endangered. Until now, improvements in the situation for savannah elephant populations have masked the extent of the illegal killing in the forests.

“The official acknowledgement that forest elephants are a different species immediately shines a strong spotlight on the terrible situation they face. The great forests of central Africa have been largely emptied of elephants as a result of the ivory trade. I hope this decision will lead to improved protection for them,” said Frank Pope, CEO of Save the Elephants.

About Save the Elephants
Based in Kenya, Save the Elephants works to secure a future for elephants. Specialising in elephant research, they provide scientific insights into elephant behaviour, intelligence, and long-distance movements and apply them to the challenges of elephant survival. Education and outreach programs share these insights with local communities as the true custodians of this rich heritage. The team works towards a future of harmonious coexistence between humans and elephants. High-tech tracking helps plan landscapes while low-tech beehive fences, among other tools, provide farmers with protection as well as income. To battle ivory poaching, Save the Elephants teamed up with the Wildlife Conservation Network created the Elephant Crisis Fund to identify and support the most effective partners in Africa and in nations with ivory markets to stop poaching, thwart traffickers and end demand for ivory.

Top photo: Forest elephants in Odzala-Kokoua National Park, Rep. of Congo © Frank af Petersens/Save the Elephants