It has long been known that the African and Asian elephants are separate species. African elephants tend to be larger than the Asian species (up to 4 m high and 7500 kg) and have bigger ears (which are rich in veins and thought to help in cooling off the blood in the hotter African climate). Female African elephants have tusks, while female Asian Elephants do not. African elephants have a dipped back, as compared with the Asian species, and have two "fingers" at the tip of their trunks, as opposed to only one.
There are two populations of African elephants, Savannah and Forest, and recent genetic studies have led to a reclassification of these as separate species, the forest population now being called Loxodonta cyclotis, and the Savannah (or Bush) population termed Loxodonta africanus. This reclassification has important implications for conservation, because it means where there were thought to be two small populations of a single endangered species, there may in fact be two separate species, each of which is even more severely endangered. There's also a potential danger in that if the forest elephant isn't explicitly listed as an endangered species, poachers and smugglers might thus be able to evade the law forbidding trade in endangered animals and their body parts.
Status: Classified as Endangered (EN - A1b) on the IUCN Red List 2002.
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