Migration Patterns of African Elephants

Elephant Animal Zoo African Bush Elephant

The African elephants possess a distribution across sub-Saharan Africa and the forest elephants principally inhabit the central and western areas of Africa. The savanna elephants reside in the southern and eastern regions.

The range states of the forest elephants include nations like Gabon, Guinea, Burkina Faso, Mauritania, Sierra Leone, Uganda, Togo, Guinea Bissau, and a host of others. As for the savanna elephant, the range states include Zimbabwe, Zambia, Sudan, Ethiopia, Malawi, Kenya, Burundi, Rwanda, and a host of others. 


These African elephants reside in several sections of an array and these include savannas, woodlands, tropical forests, and grasslands. Tropical forests are known for having a tiny variance in the temperature (approximately 23 degrees Celsius) and length of daylight to be about 12 hours. But, the rainfall differs remarkably in the tropics and is the main factor considering the kind of vegetation found in the place. Savannas are known for being grasslands that have trees that are widely scattered in their distribution while having specific rainy and dry seasons. 


Both African and Asian elephants do migrate and overall follow the same migratory routes on an annual basis. The distances of migration differ considerably and that depends on the environmental factors. During the extended dry season on the African continent, the distances of elephant migration were measured to have been more than 100 kilometers. Just to compare, the research studies regarding the Asian elephants in the deciduous forests of the southern portions of India alongside several water sources measure a range from 20 to 50 kilometers. 

African elephants are known for migrating from the initial part of the dry season, in the time between June and November and they move towards the more comfortable areas close to water sources and rivers that are known for not drying up easily. 

With the arrival of the rainy season around October to December and March to June, the elephant herds are seen moving back to the native areas for feeding on the green and lush vegetation that was fed by the rains. The migration of elephants gives room for the regrowth of vegetation in grazing areas that have been depleted. 

African Elephants

The migrations of elephants happened in three ways and it must also be stated that the precise method of migration is also influenced by the environmental conditions. The first type is that individual family groups that divide themselves from the bigger herd. This technique can be used as a response to the restricted supplies of food seen during migrations in the dry season. 

In a case where food sources are rare on the routes of migration, it is better to travel in packs of individual families instead of the bigger herds. Groups of families that are traveling in this way are overall led and controlled via a dominant female located at the front of the herd then there is another one at the rear. The young ones travel in between the dominant males so that there can be proper supervision and protection. 

Then migration can occur in various family groups, usually, two or five in number can create a bigger herd referred to as bond groups for migration. These bond groups give extra security and this is because there are more observant eyes in the herd. The females also share the supervisory and leadership responsibilities dependent on experience, age, and temperament. These bond groups need extra food resources on the migratory route but also enjoy extra protection. 

In some rare instances, total populations of elephant herds come together for mass migration. In these instances of mass migration, the elephants can number as many as 500 individuals. This style offers the highest level of protection of the herds but there have to be sources of food along the various routes of migration. 

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