The Swimming Elephants Portfolio

Explore a collection of footage featuring African elephants playing underwater.


The Swimming Elephants Portfolio


About the Species

The African elephant, now deemed two separate species (the Savanna and the Forest or Bush elephant), is the largest terrestrial animal to roam our beloved present-day planet. They are benevolent mammals that build life-long bonds with each other, which, as the saying goes, they will never forget. They are simultaneously gentle yet powerful beings and customarily symbolise good fortune, strength, knowledge, and authority. Yet, healthy elephant populations are anguished by and attempting to rebound from one of the most decimating poaching crises: the illegal ivory trade. 


Physical Traits
  • In contrast to their Asian relatives, African elephants have more prominent satellite-like ears and loftier, mighty tusks. Overall, they are larger and capable of growing to a whopping seven tonnes in weight and soaring four metres in height.
  • Their trunks and tusks are their most apparent and outstanding structures. Their trunks are organs and can weigh up to 90 kg, potentially containing up to 150,000 different muscles. As for their ivory front teeth, both females and males develop enlarged tusks, weighing anywhere from 20-90 kg.
Reproduction and Lifespan
  • Female elephants make for tenacious and persevering mothers since they endure the most prolonged pregnancy in the animal kingdom. A mother is pregnant for nearly two years and thoroughly cares for her calve for roughly two years afterwards. 
  • Concerning sexual maturity (ability to breed), females mature just after ten years, while males mature at about 14 years of age. However, males only reproduce once they’ve merited a respectable position in the social hierarchy of their herd, which is usually fulfilled at the age of 30.



  • Elephants are boisterous, communal, extraverted, and seemingly devoted creatures. They can vocalise over 70 diverse forms of sound and communicate visually using various behaviours, including trumpeting, blowing dust, bush-bashing, and ear-flapping, to name a few.
  • An elephant herd is very dynamically complex and family-oriented. The herd is shaped based on the matrilineal line, meaning that females of the family usually unite as the core of the herd, while males are expected to adhere to the matriarch, separate from the herd, and re-group. 
  • When males are cast from the herd, they are not alone for long. Single males usually join forces and form a bachelors herd of their own, spending their days foraging, feeding, and attempting to dazzle a mate.  

Predators and Prey

  • Although their enormous mass assures they could prevail as ferocious predators, elephants are actually herbivores. Therefore, the species that must fear the African elephant most include a variety of African herbs, fruits, grasses, and trees, out of which a single elephant can consume over 250 kg daily.
  • Owing to their daunting size, thick and difficult-to-penetrate skin, and defence toward the calves and vulnerable individuals of the herd, elephants fear little to no natural predators in the wild.


Threats and Climate Change

  • All populations and both species of the African elephant have undergone detrimental anthropogenic impacts. One of the most critical stressors is the illegal yet lasting ivory trade and the coupled poaching pursuits. 
  • Another significant adverse threat is the shrinkage of suitable territories and habitat destruction. Most habitats are deteriorating owing to human impact and land conversion for agricultural and industrial purposes.
  • New evidence suggests that healthy African elephant activity in the rainforests indirectly contributes to climate change mitigation. This is because they consume, groom, and prune trees in the forest and keep the ecosystem healthy, aiding in carbon storage. 

Conservation Status

  • According to the IUCN, and including both species, an estimated 415,000 elephants remain on the African continent.
  • As of 2021, the IUCN lists the African forest elephant as critically endangered while labelling the African savanna elephant as Endangered. 
  • Although the dire state of these populations is undoubted, conservation efforts (such as land planning, habitat protection measures, and anti-poaching actions) have been prosperous and vital to population stabilisation. 

Current Research

  • An essential field of study for African elephant conservation efforts is searching for and assessing land to expand suitable habitats. Fortunately, new research is unearthing that the potential range of suitable habitats is much more extensive than previously believed. 
  • Other exciting elephant research pursuits include assessing behaviour in response to changing temperatures to understand habitat selection and DNA sequencing from elephant dung and confiscated ivory to better understand population dynamics and biodiversity. Ultimately, these studies unravel pieces of the puzzle that contribute to future conservation efforts.

Charisma Factor

  • Elephants are iconic to the human race. Their size alone is enough to drop jaws and evokes an undeniable sense of awe. However, they are more than their mass. They are characterised by their kind gestures, powerful, aggressive displays, multi-purposed and rather peculiar trunks, and gregarious demeanour. 
  • Humans are drawn to these gentle giants, likely because of our unexpected semblances. To illustrate, elephants feel and display emotions, just as we do. They rejoice and feel joy in moments of family reunion, mourn in the midst of death, and altruistically care for abandoned and orphaned young.

Myths and Legends

  • Legends of the grand elephant vary among African cultures, tribes, and time intervals. However, regardless of ethnic discrepancies, elephants commonly arise in archaic myths and folklore as mighty emblems of strength, power, and wisdom. 
  • Some Kenyan tribes believe that before modern-day earth, only three entities existed: humans, elephants, and thunder. The tale goes that they chose to separate upon the creation of our world. Thunder inhabited the sky and humans the earth. While thunder advised the elephants to stay away from humans, they naively chose otherwise and bear the consequences today. 
  • Other folklore propagates stories of elephants evolving from or being part human. For instance, myths circulated of men hoodwinking women into elephant form and greedy people making sinful decisions that are punished into elephant form. In Ghana, elephants were also believed to be cherished ancestors and esteemed ancient chiefs. 

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