The African forest elephant (Loxodonta cyclotis) is a small, typically forest-dwelling mammal of the family Elephantidae (recent genetic data has shown that there are actually two species). It is one of the few surviving contemporary elephants.
Two species instead of one
The various African elephants have long been considered representatives of subspecies of the Loxodonta africana taxon. Genetic studies dating from 2001 have shown that the two main African subspecies Loxodonta africana africana and Loxodonta africana cyclotis were in fact two distinct species: in Africa, it is therefore necessary to distinguish from now on the savannah elephant Loxodonta africana and the forest elephant Loxodonta cyclotis1.
The African forest elephant has generally smaller and more circular ears than the other African species. He also has leaner and straighter tusks. Males are between 5.5 and 7.5 meters long (6.5 meters on average), 2.5 and 3.5 meters at the shoulder (3 meters on average) and weigh 4 to 6 tons (5 tons in average), while the smaller females are between 4 and 5 meters long (4.5 meters on average), 1.5 and 2.5 m at the withers (2 meters on average) and weigh between 2 and 3 .5 tons (2.75 tons on average). This species, less known due to ecological and political obstacles, is more difficult to study and protect. They are generally found in the dense forest of Central and West Africa, but they are also sometimes found at the edge of forest territory, like savannah elephants.
State of populations, threats, pressures
This species, traditionally hunted by pygmy peoples, has long been protected in the Congo Basin by the difficulty of penetrating its very enforested environment.
The red zones all correspond to zones served by forest roads6. The closer you are to a road, the less likely you are to observe a living elephant, and the greater the risk of poaching. According to the authors: the abundance and diversity of forest elephants are threatened by poaching, which is most intense near logging roads6.
According to the authors of this study, supported by the Wildlife Conservation Society of New York, there is an urgent need, “forest elephants must be given priority consideration in elephant management planning on a continental scale”6 taking into account better account of the threat posed by roads to wildlife vulnerable to poaching.