From across the forests and savannas, mountains, oceans, and skies of the world, welcome to a celebration of the animals that you know and love – it’s the …

It’s the world’s largest land mammal and it packed its trunk just to be here …

Give it up for the SAVANNA ELEPHANT!

Elephants in Namibia. Image: Rhett A. Butler

Meanwhile, across town …

PSSST. Hey, over here. It’s great that we celebrate the animals that we know and love, but they aren’t the only animals in the world.

Many of the popular animals have unfamous cousins that are just as cool as they are. Come meet these cousins at the …

Savanna elephants are major players on the African savanna, but meet their cousin … the FOREST ELEPHANT:

Forest elephant in Gabon. Image: Rhett A. Butler

Why is the forest elephant as cool as its cousin, the better-known savanna elephant?

Forest elephants create highways through the forest by knocking over trees and removing vines and shrubs. Many forest residents use the elephant trails, including people. Forest elephants are known as keystone species because of their important role in shaping the forests.

Why is the forest elephant not as famous as the savanna elephant?

For a long time, scientists have observed that there are physical differences between forest elephants and savanna elephants. Forest elephants are about a third smaller than their savanna cousins. Also, forest elephants have rounder ears and straighter tusks. 

Despite these differences, African elephants were originally all classified as one species. Genetic studies now show that forest elephants and savanna elephants are even more different from each other than scientists thought. 

We now know there are two elephant species in Africa – forest elephants have been hiding in plain sight!

By David Brown