African Elephants

Elephants are the world's largest living land mammal.There are two sub-species of African elephant: the savannah elephant and the forest elephant. In 1979 there were just 1.3 million left. Today approximately 450,000 survive in the wild.

The single biggest threat to elephants is the illegal trade in ivory. A recent report - the Great Elephant Census published in 2016 - estimates that 30% (about 144,000 elephants) were killed for their ivory between 2007-2014. Although the trade in ivory has been illegal since 1989, one-off sales of stockpiled ivory have accelerated demand. Ivory, like human teeth, is made of dentine. It is carved into ornaments and trinkets and given as symbols of wealth. The rest of the elephant is usually left where it fell or used as bush meat. As a result of these elephant deaths there are an increasing number of orphaned elephants.



Up to 6,500kg


Herbivore - they eat for 20 hours a day




37 Sub-Saharan African countries

Where in the world?

Elephants can be found across sub-Saharan Africa mainly in Western, Southern and Eastern Africa. They are migratory animals and use ancient routes travelling from country to country to find food and water. The David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation supports elephant conservation and research in Zambia and Uganda.


The capital of Zambia is Lusaka.

Zambia is home to DSWF's longest standing project. We helped establish Zambia's first elephant orphanage and set up local NGO Game Rangers International (GRI) which supports park protection, education, community outreach and elephant rescue.

Learn more about this project


The capital of Uganda is Kampala.

Uganda's Queen Elizabeth Park and Ishasha Region, are home to nearly 1,000 elephants and used as a migratory corridor for many more. DSWF supports the Uganda Conservation Foundation (UCF) funding the Waterways Project, the first waterborne anti-poaching patrols of these vulnerable waterways.

Learn more about this project



There are two sub-species of African elephant: the Savannah elephant and the forest elephant. In 1979 there were 1.3 million left. Today only approximately 450,000 African elephants survive in the wild.


Females stay together for life with an older female (cow) called a "matriarch" in charge. Teenage males leave the herd and often form bachelor herds before fighting older bulls to gain control of a herd.


The David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation founded the first elephant orphanage in Zambia which rescues, rehabilitates and safely returns these victims of ivory poaching and human conflict back to the wild. When you are 18 you can volunteer to help!


Physical contact is very important to elephants and these gentle giants help their sick and injured. Cows often watch over their dead calves, sometimes covering them with leaves and branches before moving on.

Discover more about African Elephants

You can help save the elephant by supporting the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation's work either by fundraising as a school or an individual, adopting Chamilandu or Nkala or entering our annual art and poetry competition. For more information you can download our animal fact sheets and posters too!

Photography courtesy of Erica Wark, EOP, Andrew White, Martin Harvey