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African Bush Elephant (Loxodonta africana) mother and calf in Kruger National Park, South Africa

African Bush Elephant

(Loxodonta africana)

The Daily Creature turns 100! To celebrate, I present to you the largest land animal on the planet: the African Elephant!

Our experiences in Africa have taught me that elephants are sensitive, thoughtful, emotional, and intelligent creatures.

I have fond memories of being awakened in our tent one night in Botswana and hearing elephants in all directions knocking down Mopane palms to eat their delicious nuts. It was pitch black and we couldn’t see a thing, not even each other sitting inches apart with our eyes wide in the darkness. We could hear the crashing of trees very close by, but it was the subsonic rumbling bass of their communication calls that I remember most. It shook through our chest cavities and vibrated our bones. At its highest pitch, which our ears could barely perceive, it sounded like the deep slow-motion growl of a huge dinosaur.


We’ve been surrounded by elephants as far as the eye could see in the Caprivi Strip of Namibia. Hundreds passed us by with hardly a glance.

We’ve watched mothers gently caress their babies, who then run off with their floppy trunks waggling, looking for the nearest toy to mess with.

We’ve been surprised in the darkness by teenage bulls in musth (mating season) charging at our vehicle while we were out tracking leopards in South Africa, trumpeting loudly and shaking their ears. (That trumpet will make you poop your pants if you’re not expecting it.)

Elephant confronts a tourist. Pianesberg National Park, South Africa.
Elephant confronts a tourist. Pianesberg National Park, South Africa.

And we’ve watched small groups of elephants swim together in a lake for hours, rolling about like happy children. The sensation of weightlessness must be a wonderful feeling for such heavy animals. They splash and play and use their trunks as snorkels.

Elephant swimming in Bwabwata National Park, Caprivi Strip, Namibia
Elephant swimming in Bwabwata National Park, Caprivi Strip, Namibia

My moments spent watching elephants have been some of my happiest and most memorable in Africa. If you love elephants, never ever buy a piece of ivory or a souvenir made from an elephant part, and please support organizations that are fighting elephant poaching and saving elephant habitat. Together we can keep these magnificent beings wandering around on planet Earth.

Now read some cool elephant facts on Travel For Wildlife!

Hal with elephant crossing sign, Namibia
Hal with elephant crossing sign, Namibia


You might be surprised to learn where elephants fit into the tree of life. Their closest relatives are the hyraxes and sea cows!