Namibia’s Desert-Adapted Elephants

Desert-adapted elephants are not a distinct species of elephant but are African bush elephants (Loxodonta africana) that have made their homes in Namibia’s desert in Africa. It was believed at one time that they were a subspecies of the African bush elephant, but this is no longer thought to be the case.   They tend to migrate from one waterhole to another following, traditional routes which depend on the seasonal availability of food and water.

Whilst there are no genetic or physiological differences between Desert-Adapted Elephants and African savanna elephant’s — desert-adapted elephants do seem to look taller.  Biologists connect this long-legged illusion to its smaller body mass, the result of a leaner diet of grasses and shrubs. Desert-adapted elephants also appear to have bigger feet than those in more temperate landscapes because of their extended footpads. The larger foot surface area stops the elephant from sinking into the sand, when walking over dunes in search of food and water.

Like many species in Africa, Desert-adapted elephants are under threat from human encroachment and loss of habitat. Elephant Human Relations Aid in Namibia, is an NGO that conserves desert-adapted elephants, through an award-winning wildlife volunteer project. They apply practical solutions to conflict-affected areas through several initiatives such as; waterpoint conservation on local farms, vehicle-based patrols to track and monitor the elephants, and community development and upliftment to help promote a positive relationship between elephants and humans in Namibia.