African Forest Elephant (Loxodanta cyclotis)
Related to the African Savanna Elephant, the African forest Elephant can be found mainly in dense rainforests of the West and Central Africa. Their preference for dense forest habitat prohibits traditional counting methods such as visual identification. Their population is usually estimated through “dung counts”—an analysis on the ground of the density and distribution of the feces.
They forage on leaves and grasses, that way, they and other herbivores help keep shrubs within limit. Also, they feed on seeds and the fruit of trees, and with their activities, they play an essential role in seed dispersal. They are therefore referred to as the ‘mega-gardener of the forest.’ Being an iconic species also, they increase tourists’ interest to visit protected areas or rural areas where they are present, thereby improving the economy of those places.
Compared with the African Savanna Elephant, their tusks point downward and are straighter. Their ears are also more oval-shaped. They live in family groups which can be up to 20 individuals.
They are classified as Critically Endangered Species on the IUCN red-list. Forest elephants have a much slower reproductive rate than savanna elephants, so they cannot bounce back from population declines as quickly at the same rate.
Poaching is a significant challenge to them as they are being hunted down for ivory. Habitat fragmentation is also a challenge. Added to the habitat issue for them, it has brought them closer to humans. They raid farmlands and destroy plantations, and this has also caused Human-Wildlife conflict on many occasions.