Appears in
Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

  • About

elephant the only survivor of the zoological order Proboscidea, which formerly included the mammoth and the mastodon, known from cave paintings and fossils.

The two principal species of elephant are Loxodonta africana, the sway-backed African elephant, and Elephas maximus, the Asian elephant. The latter, which is somewhat smaller than the former (4 tons as opposed to 6) is an endangered species, and the African elephant is now also in need of conservation. This need is not an entirely new phenomenon. There were elephants in ancient Egypt, where their meat was regarded as a delicacy and King Ptolemy Philadelphus (308–245 bc) forbade killing them; but they did not survive.