Why are African Elephants Endangered? - Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Jenny Homer

Jenny has masters' degrees in public health and public administration.

In this lesson, we'll learn some cool facts about African elephants and come to understand why they are an endangered species. Let's read on to find out more about these interesting creatures.

African Elephants

When you look at a picture of an African elephant, the first thing you probably notice is that they're huge. In fact, they are larger than any other animal living on land in the world, weighing more than 2 tons! It's not just their size that makes these regal creatures so special. They are very smart, live in families, and can use their trunks to hold tools, communicate, and spray water!

There are two kinds of African elephants: savanna elephants and forest elephants. Most African elephants are savanna elephants. Their ears, larger than those on Asian elephants, help keep cool. Some think their ears are shaped like the continent of Africa.

When you see an African elephant, you probably don't think that they look like they could be in danger, but they are. There are only about 415,000 African elephants when there used to be millions. (We know this from a big study where people flew in planes and counted the African elephants they saw from the air!) They could become extinct if people don't act. The two main reasons that so many African elephants have died: (1.) poaching and (2.) habitat loss.

African elephants


African elephants have tusks, important tools for digging and fighting. For poachers (people who hunt animals and kill them even though it's against the law), elephant tusks are a way to make money. That's because tusks are made of ivory, which is very valuable. Ivory is used to make expensive objects and statues that are very popular in Asia. Elephants are also killed for their meat and skin, but their tusks are the main reason. In 2012, more than 1,000 tusks were found hidden in shipments of other goods to Malaysia.

Ivory figures

Thousands of African elephants die every year because of poaching. Sometimes many elephants are killed at one time. Teams of rangers in Africa work to stop these cruel poachers, but this is dangerous work.

The United States and China have passed new laws to make it even harder to sell and trade ivory. Both countries destroyed a lot of illegal ivory. Agreements between other countries and from international organizations also say that trading elephant ivory is not allowed.

Habitat Loss

African elephants

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