Asian Elephant (Elephas maximus)


Class: Mammalia
Order: Proboscidea
Family:    Elephantidae
Size:    Length 18 to 20 feet (5.4 to 6 m)   Height 8 to 10 feet (2.4 to 3 m)
Weight: Up to 11,000 pounds  (4990 kg)
Diet: Leaves, nuts, fruit, small branches, twigs, bananas, sugar cane and bark
Distribution: Used to be found throughout India and southeastern Asia. Now found in mountainous parts of India, Indochina, Sri Lanka, Indonesia and southern China
Young:  1 calf every 3 to 4 years
Animal Predators:  Leopards and tigers prey on calves
IUCN Status: Endangered
Terms: Male: Bull  Female: Cow   Young: Calf
Lifespan: About 70 years or more



·       Elephants are excellent swimmers.

·       Asian elephants have been put into service by humans since 2000 BC.

·       Elephants flap their ears to cool themselves down in excessive heat.

·       Asian elephants are also known as Indian elephants.

·       Asian elephants disappeared from southwestern Asia and China centuries ago due to habitat loss.



Asian elephants are similar to their only other living elephant relative, the African elephant, but there are physical differences. Asian elephants are smaller in size and have much smaller ears. Female Asian elephants do not have tusks. Their feet are thickly padded, allowing them to walk quietly, despite their massive size. They have thick, dry skin, with very little hair. Asian elephants vary in colour from brown to grey, and the head is the highest part of the body. Their hind feet have four nails. They have very unique teeth that move forward as the elephant grows older. When the front teeth wear down, they are replaced by the teeth from the back of the mouth. 



Asian elephants can be found on the edges of the rainforest or in open grassland. They are never far from water, because they need to drink often and enjoy bathing. They tend toward areas that combine grass, low woody plants, and forest. Elephants rarely forage in one area for more than a few days in a row. 


Feeding Habits

Elephants eat leaves, nuts, fruit, branches, twigs, bananas, sugar cane and bark, and carry food and water to their mouths with their trunks.



During mating, a cow and bull elephant often separate themselves from the rest of the herd for several days or more. The cow will give birth to a calf after a pregnancy of one and a half years. The calf weighs about 100 kg at birth and can stand within hours. It will be able to keep up with the herd within days by holding onto its mother’s tail or the tail of an older sister. The calf will begin to eat grass in several months, but will also continue to nurse (using its mouth, not its trunk) for up to five years before being weaned. Mothers are affectionate with their young and can be seen caressing their babies with their trunks. Other elephants in the herd become excited when a new baby joins the herd. Females stay with the same herd their entire lives, but males are driven out by the females when they reach twelve to fourteen years of age. A young male may follow the herd for awhile, but eventually goes off to live on his own. Juvenile males sometimes form social groups for short periods, but spend most of their lives, especially when older, living alone. Although both genders become sexually mature at 14, males will not mate until they can dominate other males. 



Despite their size, elephants are gentle and live peacefully in family groups. When necessary, they can run at speeds of up to 25 miles (40 km) per hour. When a group of elephants come across a dead elephant, they react in an emotional waycrying and making grief soundsand if the dead elephant is in the form of a skeleton, they caress the bones. Elephants do not behave this way when they come across other types of dead animals, leading researchers to believe that elephants actually mourn their dead.



Asian elephants have been listed as Endangered by both IUCN and the US Fish and Wildlife Service because of illegal hunting for their tusks and loss of habitat.



Asian Elephant Wildlife Fact File, IM Pub, US

All the World's Animals: Carnivores, Torstar Books Inc. 1984