SCHÜRER, U. (2017)

Über Waldelefanten.

Der Zoologische Garten 86 (1-6): 108-166


An attempt is made to provide a survey of the African Forest Elephants kept in various zoological gardens between 1882 and the present. Due to the very mixed quality and reliability of sources, and the difficult question which elephants from the northern part of their range may have been hybrids, I do not offer the data as a table. The two main areas of origin were today‘s Gabon and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, specifically the elephant training stations at Api and Gangala-na-Bodio or Wando and Aru. In the elephant training centers, four calves were born in 1930, of which three survived. From Gangala-na-Bodio, Forest Elephants, Savannah Elephants and hybrids between both have been exported. There are also exports for which data are available, but not on their final destination.

I also discuss the possible existence of Pigmy Elephants, coming to the conclusion that there is no proof. Growth tables and photographs of Forest Elephants in zoological gardens offer too little support for the thesis. Studies of the anatomy and the genome and observations of free-living Forest Elephants suggest that Pigmy Elephants do not exist as a taxonomic unit.

In many cases, the health of Forest Elephants kept in zoological gardens was poor. This was largely due to insufficient housing and management, preventing breeding in Europe and in America. This would have been only theoretically possible in a few cases anyway. Most Forest Elephants were kept as single individuals, either alone or together with African Savanna or Asian Elephants. Unlike those kept in the elephant training centers in what was then the Belgian Congo, most Forest Elephants in zoos were short-lived. With the current knowledge of elephant management, a new start in keeping and breeding Forest Elephants could be made outside their native home. They are critically endangered due to loss of habitat and severe poaching.


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