They are grey in colour and they have a sparse covering of hair. Their large ears are rounded and they have straight, downward pointing, yellowish tusks. On their forefeet they have five toes and on their hind feet they have four.
They communicate with each other using low calls that can be heard by other elephants through several kilometres of dense jungle, but these sounds are too low to be detected by humans.
Forest elephants are now accepted as a unique species of elephant, distinct from their better-known cousin, the African savanna (or bush) elephant (L. africana). Forest elephants are smaller in size, with more rounded ears, and straighter, thinner tusks. Family groups may be smaller, but otherwise their social structure and life history appear to be similar to savanna elephants. DNA analysis has recently shown that African savannah and forest elephants are genetically distinct, reinforcing the very different ecology of forest elephants (more on the 'forest elephant ecology' page).
African Forest Elephants are found in the dense, lowland jungle of west and central Africa. Males are generally solitary and females live in small groups with one or two of their offspring.
Throughout their range there are networks of trails that have been created over many years and these trails link favourite feeding areas.
African Forest Elephants feed on grass, leaves, bark, fruit and other vegetation. They require an intake of water daily and can consume up to 50 gallons per day.
They gather in large groups in clearings in the forest known as "bais". At the bais they are able to obtain mineral salts by digging down into the soil.
African Forest Elephants breed at any time of the year but a female will only reproduce every 4 years. Females are only receptive for 3 - 6 days and when she is ready she will emit a low growl that can be heard for several kilometres.
After a gestation period of 22 months, a single calf will be born. The calf will eat solid foods from about 6 months old, but it will continue to feed on its mother’s milk until is it approximately 5 years old.
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