What Kind of Habitat Do Elephants Live in?

By Vivian Crosswhite; Updated April 25, 2017
The habitat of an elephant depends on the part of the world in which it lives.

Elephants come from only two continents: Africa and Asia. African elephants are the larger of the two. African elephants live in parts of sub-Saharan Africa, with habitats ranging from the savannas to the mountains. Asian elephants live in areas of India and Southeast Asia, with a habitat consisting of the grassy lands surrounding the jungle.

African Elephants

African elephants prefer tropical forest habitats but also live in savannas, mountains and deserts throughout Africa. They do not live on the African island of Madagascar. Most elephants in Africa live in conservation areas. Conservation areas are places where elephants are free to roam and it is illegal to disturb them.

African Elephants: Savanna

Most African elephants live in the savanna. It is grassy with individual trees scattered throughout. Savannas cover almost half of Africa's total surface. In the savanna, there is an average of 20 to 50 inches of rain each year, and the temperature varies between 60 and 75 degrees. The rain falls for six to eight months followed by four to six months of no rain. It is important that a drought occurs each year. During the drought, fires burn through the vegetation, which grow back during the rainy season. If this does not happen, most of the savanna would turn into a tropical forest. The elephants eat leaves, twigs and bark from the trees in the savanna. They also can pull up bushes and uproot trees and feed on the roots.

African Elephants: Mountains and Desert

Some African elephants can be found in the desert and mountains. The desert elephant will travel up to 60 miles in one day in search of food and water. Elephants have the ability to go long periods without water and can drink 45 gallons or more per day. Elephants will dig holes in the ground to find water. African elephants also can survive in the mountains. If there is not enough vegetation, the elephants will look for salt licks and water with higher amounts of minerals. They can survive below freezing temperatures as well as temperatures above 120 degrees Fahrenheit for short periods.

Asian Elephants

Asian elephants are found roaming the fertile grasslands around some Asian jungles. Depending on the time of year, the elephants can be found in the tall grass forests, the river valley where water is flowing, or in the short grasses of the valley. These elephants are smaller than African elephants. Only the males have tusks, and they are hunted for the ivory. They have been domesticated by humans and are used to lift heavy objects and as transportation. These elephants have also been used in war.

Asian Elephants: Habitat

The Asian elephant is found in the hot, humid, grassy areas surrounding jungles. These fields have grass, trees and shrubs on which the elephants prefer to feed. Asian elephants also will eat various vines, roots and leaves. The amount of rainfall determines the grassy area where the elephants will live. During the dry season, from January to April, the elephants will move to river valleys where they will be closer to water from the rivers. From May through August, they move on to the tall grass forests, as this is the first rainy season and the grasses are abundant there. During the months of September through December, the second wet season, the elephants move on to the short grass of the open forests around the jungle.

About the Author

Based in Atlanta, Vivian Crosswhite has been writing for over 15 years, with work appearing on various websites. Crosswhite has been a writing coach for high-school students in the Atlanta area. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in creative writing.