Asian elephant

Facts about Asian elephant

We found 21 facts about Asian elephant

Elephas maximus

Asian elephants are one of the most endangered terrestrial mammals. Previously so widespread they reached the basin of the Yangtze River, nowadays their numbers dwindle–within the last 50 to 75 years, they experienced a drop of 50%. Easily distinguishable from their African cousins, they are the largest land mammals in Asia.

Asian elephant
It belongs to the genus Elephas and is its only existing species.
It can be found in Southeast Asia and the Indian subcontinent.
It is the largest terrestrial mammal in Asia.
There are three subspecies of Asian elephants.
  • Sri Lankan elephant (Elephas maximus maximus), found in Sri Lanka;
  • Indian elephant (Elephas maximus indicus), found in mainland Asia and accounting for the majority of the remaining species;
  • Sumatran elephant (Elephas maximus sumatranus), found in Sumatra.

The Borneo pygmy elephant is considered the fourth subspecies of the Asian elephant, but currently it awaits a definitive subspecific classification as Elephas maximus borneensis and thus is not listed above.

The other subspecies–The western Asiatic elephant, also called the Syrian elephant–became extinct in ancient times.
It can measure between 2.1 and 3 meters at the shoulder, 6.5 meters in length, and weigh between 2,500 and 5,500 kilograms.
It is significantly smaller than its cousin from Africa, the African elephant.
The Asian elephant has smaller, more round ears and one finger, instead of two, on the upper lip of its trunk.
Asian elephants are gray, with pinkish patches on their trunks, around their ears and forehead.
They are herbivores.
They feed on roots, fruit, twigs, bark, and grasses. They can eat up to 140 kilograms of food every day.
Asian elephants have six sets of small teeth.
They are all present in the elephant’s skull at birth. Since each set is larger than the previous one, their skulls grow throughout their lifetime to make space for the new set.
Female Asian elephants are very sociable.
They usually travel in herds, with six or seven female relatives, led by the oldest called the matriarch.

Males are rather solitary but can be found wandering in small herds.
Males reach sexual maturity at the age of 10 to 14, and females at the age of 8 to 9.
Calves are born after 18 to 22 months of gestation.
Given proper circumstances, the female can give birth to one calf every 2.5 to 4 years.
All females from the herd accompany the mother in caring for her calf.
Calves make their first independent moves at approximately four years of age.
Their average lifespan in the wild is approximately 60 years.
There are approximately 150,000 muscles in their trunk.
Asian elephants can both push over a tree with their trunk, or pick up and shell a peanut.
Trunks are also used to drink.
It sucks up about eight liters of water. Asian elephants have to drink at least once a day.
Only some male Asian elephants develop large tusks, the majority of females and some males have tushes—smaller, approximately 5 centimeters long tusks.
Tushes are brittle and have a tendency to break. Many males do not have tusks at all.
Asian elephants have one more toenail on each foot than their African cousins.
For every Asian elephant, there are 10 African elephants.
Asian elephants communicate with each other with growls, rumbles, moans, and bellows.
Their vocalization can be picked up from over 1.6 kilometers away.
Asian elephants are sacred animals to Hindus.
One of the most powerful deities of Hinduism, the Remover of Obstacles, is an elephant-headed Lord Ganesha.
It has been listed as Endangered by the IUCN Red List since 1986.
It faces habitat loss and poaching, although not as severe as in Africa. Within the last 60-75 years, their numbers declined by 50%. Since Asian elephants’ habitat is shrinking due to human expansion, sometimes they invade human fields and eat their crops. As a retaliation, humans kill invading elephants, despite receiving compensation from governments.

Their current population is estimated at no more than 50,000 individuals.
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