African Elephant

There are two species of African elephant, the forest elephant and the savanna elephant. They were once considered the same species, though recent studies have found that the two are genetically different enough to be considered separate species, forest elephants (Loxodonta cyclotis) and savanna elephants (Loxodonta africana). Forest elephants can be distinguished from savanna elephants by a couple of physical characteristics, being smaller and having smaller, more rounded ears and straighter, thinner tusks. The two species also occupy very different habitats from which they earned their common names, with forest elephants sticking to dense rainforests and savanna elephants preferring more open woodlands and grasslands. Our African elephant, Tonya, is a forest elephant.

African Forest Elephant

Loxodonta cyclotis

Distribution: Rainforests of the Congo Basin and West Africa

Diet in the Wild: Shrubs and foliage

Diet at Caldwell Zoo: Grain, hay and varied fruits and vegetables

Height: 8ft-10ft (2.4m-3.0m)

Weight: 2 to 5 tons

IUCN Red List Status: Vulnerable, population increasing

Threats: Habitat loss, habitat fragmentation, illegal hunting

Interesting Facts?

An elephant’s trunk is a specialized, elongated nose and upper lip with 40,000 muscles

The large ears of African elephants contain many blood vessels. Blood that flows through these vessels loses some of its heat to the environment, helping the elephant stay cool on hot days.

African elephants have two small projections on the end of their trunks. The elephants use these projections for grasping objects, similar to how we use our fingers.


Here at the Caldwell Zoo, Tonya is known as the mischievous one, usually getting into things that quite frankly, aren’t any of her business. Tonya came to us from the St. Louis Zoo and arrived in December of 1988. It is estimated that she was born in 1977 in Africa. Her favorite food is watermelon, which she gets plenty of in the summer time, and she loves to play with a large, heavy ball when she is inside the barn. Tonya may be easily identified by having wide-set eyes and less wrinkles on her face. Her tusks are relatively similar in length.

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