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Asian Elephant | Endangered Species Series


Asian Elephant | Elephas maximus indicus

Quick Facts:

Status: Endangered

Height: 6.5 – 11.5ft

Weight: around 11,000lbs

Length: around 21ft

Population: 40,000-50,000

As Asia's largest land mammal, the Asian elephant is smaller than its African counterpart, with smaller ears that they use to keep themselves cool by constantly keeping them in motion and a single 'finger' on the upper lip of their trunk (African elephants have a second finger). Their skin ranges from dark grey to brown and they often have pink patches at the base of their trunk, on their foreheads, ears, and chest - which makes them easily distinguishable from African elephants. A large portion of male Asian elephants are tuskless.

Asian elephants are extremely social animals, forming matriarchal family groups of six to seven related females, led by the eldest. Males usually live alone, but will, at times, form small groups with other males. Depending on the condition of their habitat, females can give birth every 2.5 to 4 years. Calves stay with their mothers for several years and become independent around 4 years of age.

Around two-thirds of an elephant’s day is spent feeding on grasses. They need to eat an average of 150 kg of food per day for survival. In addition to grasses, tree bark, roots, leaves, and small stems are also part of their diet. Asian elephants also favor cultivated crops such as bananas, rice, and sugarcane. They need to drink fresh water at least once a day, so they remain close to their water source.

THREATS

Genetic threat: concerns over the loss of male big tuskers due to poaching could lead to inbreeding and may eventually lead to high mortality rates in juveniles and low breeding success.

Habitat loss: their migratory routes are increasingly being cut off, forcing the elephants to their ‘islands’ of habitat.

Increased human-elephant conflicts as their habitat is encroached upon and they begin to venture into farms and villages.

Capture: the elephants are being captured for domestic use in the timber and tourist industries.

Poaching for the illegal ivory trade targets males.

Sources: World Wildlife Fund

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