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African Elephant

At the Zoo: African Elephant

Animal Story

In 2003, Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo and San Diego Zoo’s Safari Park imported 11 African elephants from Swaziland in southern Africa. This combined effort saved the elephants from being culled (killed), in an effort to reduce the size of the herd. Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo is now home to 3 magnificent elephants from Swaziland and 1 from Namibia, and 2 calves born at the Zoo.

Most elephant herds are matriarchal, meaning that there is one dominant female that leads the family. Our herd is different because we do not have 1 true matriarch. Instead, we have a circular dominance structure, in which all 3 adult females have dominance over another elephant. This social dynamic makes managing the herd challenging, and we pay very close attention to the social structure to keep the elephants safe.

"Ellie," the largest of our female elephants, came to the U.S. from Namibia in the 1980s and lived at two other zoos before coming to Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo in 2003. "Ellie" gave birth to the zoo’s first elephant calf, "Tamani," in 2005.  Now that "Tamani" is older and is residing at another zoo, "Ellie" enjoys spending much of her time playing “Auntie” to the other two calves in the herd.

"Matjeka" and "Mbali" are the herd’s two adult females from Swaziland. "Mbali" is our smallest adult elephant, weighing only 5,400 lbs. "Mbali" received her name, which means “flower” in siswati, due to her petite and delicate features (for an elephant!).  In late December of 2012, she gave birth to a healthy calf named "Mpumi."

In July of 2013, first-time mom, "Matjeka," gave birth to "Mavi." Excitable "Mpumi" was the first animal to interact with "Mavi," just seconds after she was born, and since then the two have been inseparable.

"Sdudla" is our only bull elephant at the Zoo. He is our largest animal, weighing close to 10,000 pounds! "Sdudla’s" name means stout and refers to his build, being relatively short and stocky.  He has a relaxed personality and enjoys eating plants and playing with logs. He is the father of both "Mpumi" and "Mavi."


About: African Elephant

Natural Habitat

Savannas, forests, river valleys, and marshes.


South of the Sahara Desert to the southern tip of Africa, and from the Atlantic Ocean to the Indian Ocean.


Weight: up to 6 tons (bulls), up to 3 tons (cows).
Height at shoulders: 12 feet (bulls), 9 feet (cows).


Up to 60 years in the wild, up to 80 years in captivity.


22 months.

Diet Details

Consume 165-330 lbs. per day. Drink 20-40 gallons of water per day. During wet times eats grass, roots, and fruit. During dry times eat leaves and bark from trees and bushes. Older elephants, because of lack of teeth, are often found in swampy areas where vegetation is softer.

Fun Facts: African Elephant

  • African elephants are the largest land mammals on the planet.
  • African elephant females undergo the longest pregnancy of any animal, carrying their calf for 22 months.
  • African elephants can weigh up to 6 tons and measure 12 feet at the shoulder.
  • Our African Elephant herd eats approximately 2 to 3 percent of their body weight each day in hay, grasses and tree foliage.
  • African elephants drink between 20 and 40 gallons of water per day.
  • African elephants often use their ears to communicate visually. Flapping their ears can signify either aggression or joy.
  • African elephants can use their trunks as a snorkel while they swim underwater.

Conservation: African Elephant

In the wild, elephants are in trouble. Elephant populations in Africa are under severe threat from human-elephant conflict, intense poaching for ivory, disease, and dramatic loss of habitat. The status of African elephants varies considerably across the species' geographical range. Conservation and education efforts are crucial to maintain elephant populations and habitats and can help reverse the trend.

In the early 1950s, wildlife in the country of Swaziland had been severely decimated by rampant hunting and habitat loss. One family, the Reillys, recognized this loss of the country’s wildlife heritage and began a tireless crusade to save the remaining species and restore those that were lost. Their determination and perseverance led to the establishment of three National Parks and the beginning of wildlife conservation in the country of Swaziland. More than 50 years later, the Reilly family continues to work tirelessly to manage and protect wildlife as well as promote awareness of conserving Swaziland’s natural resources. Elephants, black and white rhino, and many other species are now thriving due to their efforts.

Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo has committed annual funds to provide financial support to help the people of Swaziland with their conservation mission. Funds help to support acquiring additional land, fund anti-poaching programs, and increase public education.

Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) accredited zoos with elephants, like Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo, are leaders in elephant conservation, education, and science. We invite the public to celebrate and support elephants by visiting them year round.
96 elephants

How You Can Help

Adopt an Animal!

You can help support expert animal care at the Zoo as well as local and global conservation efforts by purchasing a symbolic animal adoption package.

Join Us!

When you become a member of Tampa's Lowry Park Zoo you are supporting conservation year-round.

Be a Conservation Leader!

Each of us can help protect the environment, wildlife, and habitats through choices we make in our daily lives. Even small changes can make big positive impacts on the world around us.

  • Avoid ivory products – An estimated 96 elephants a day are killed for their ivory.
  • Write to your government leaders – Petition your state and city officials to make the sale and trade of ivory and ivory products illegal.
  • Be a part of World Elephant Day on August 12 every year – Share information with your friends via social media about elephant conservation!

Related Events

Jan 16, 2018 - 11:30 AM African Elephant Keeper Talk & Training Demo
Type: Daily Shows & Talks
Location: Safari Africa
Ages: All Ages
Cost: Included with Admission
Learn More
  • Tampa Bay City Pass
  • Association of Zoos and Aquariums
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Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo is operated by the Lowry Park Zoological Society, an independent 501(c)(3) charitable organization committed to excellence in education, conservation and research. The Zoo is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), and is featured among the “Top 25 Zoos in the U.S” by TripAdvisor (2015) and “10 Best Zoos in the U.S.” by Trekaroo (2015). The Zoo is located at 1101 W. Sligh Avenue in Tampa, one mile west of I-275 (exit 48) and is open seven days a week, from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. 

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