Even though elephants are among the most popular members of kingdom Animalia, we can't really boast of knowing everything about them. Of the several facts about them which continue to elude us, the ones pertaining to their habitat in particular are the most striking.
Basically, elephants are classified into two groups on the basis their geographical range. As their names suggests, African elephants are native to Africa, while Asian elephants are native to Asia. Interestingly, Africa is home to two species of elephants, the African bush elephant (Savannah elephant) and African forest elephant, which were previously considered subspecies. The Asian elephant, on the other hand, is a single species, and is also known as the Indian elephant. The African bush elephant is considerably larger than its Asian counterpart, and also sports larger ears than the latter.
The geographical range of elephants spans several hundred square miles across Africa and Asia. When we talk about elephant habitat, we also need to take their diet and behavior into consideration, as the former plays a crucial role in determining the extent of their habitat and latter plays a crucial role in their migratory habits.
African Bush Elephant: When we say that the elephant is the largest land mammal on Earth, we actually refer to African bush elephants, which inhabit the arid regions and Savannah grasslands of Africa. This species is found in abundance in Kenya, South Africa, Tanzania, Namibia, Zimbabwe, and Botswana.
African Forest Elephant: The African forest elephants inhabit the dense tropical and subtropical rainforests of the Congo basin. They are found in abundance in Niger, Senegal, Ghana, Mali, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, and Mauritania. Of late, the population of African forest elephants has declined by a significant extent primarily as a result of habitat loss and poaching.
Asian Elephant (Indian Elephant): The Asian elephant boasts of being the largest land animal in Asia. Unlike the habitat of the African species, the habitat of Asiatic species is characterized by forested regions and mountainous terrain. This species is found in countries like India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Indonesia, Bhutan, Sumatra, etc.
While the African elephants migrate during the dry season, Asian elephants migrate during the monsoons. Elephants are seldom seen traveling alone, as most of the time they migrate in large groups called herds. At times, a large herd of African bush elephants, which usually inhabit the Savannah grasslands, can be seen in the fringe areas of the tropical forests of Africa.
Over the last few years, excessive poaching for their prized ivory tusks has resulted in a severe decline in elephant population in both continents. Among the three species, the Asian elephant has been declared endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The authorities are trying their best to curb illegal poaching by introducing various wildlife conservation measures. Introduction of legislation, like the African Elephant Conservation Act and the Asian Elephant Conservation Act, has helped in controlling illegal activities such as poaching to a certain extent, but a lot needs to be done. As a responsible citizen, you can do your bit by spreading awareness about elephants and their endangered status.