The Asian elephant also known as the Asiatic elephant is an elephant species living in Asia.
It is distributed throughout the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia, from India in the west, Nepal in the north, Sumatra in the south, and to Borneo in the east.
Three subspecies are recognised:
• the Sri Lankan elephant occurs in Sri Lanka;
• the Indian elephant occurs in mainland Asia:
• the Sumatran elephant occurs in Sumatra.
Asian elephants are found in several different habitats including grasslands, tropical evergreen forests, semi-evergreen forests, moist deciduous forests, dry deciduous forests and dry thorn forests, in addition to cultivated and secondary forests and scrublands.
Over this range of habitat types elephants occur from sea level to over 3,000 m (9,800 ft). In the eastern Himalaya in northeast India, they regularly move up above 3,000 m (9,800 ft) in summer at a few sites.
The lifespan of the Asian Elephant is from 60 to 75 years for both in the wild and in captivity.
The oldest elephant ever was Dakshayani [Photo below], an Asian elephant, who died in 2019 at the age of 88 in Kerala, India.
The Asian elephant is the largest living land animal in Asia. It is smaller than the African bush elephant and has the highest body point on the head.
On average, males are about 2.75 m (9 ft) tall at the shoulder and 4 tonnes (4.4 short tons) in weight, while females are smaller at about 2.4 m (7.9 feet) at the shoulder and 2.7 t (3 short tons) in weight. Length of body and head including trunk is from 5.5 to 6.5 m (18 to 21 ft) with the tail being 1.2 to 1.5 m (3.9 to 4.9 ft) long.
Skin color is usually grey, and may be masked by soil because of dusting and wallowing. Their wrinkled skin is movable and contains many nerve centres. It is smoother than that of African elephants, and may be depigmented on the trunk, ears, or neck.
Tusks serve to dig for water, salt, and rocks, to debark and uproot trees, as levers for maneuvering fallen trees and branches, for work, for display, for marking trees, as weapon for offence and defence, as trunk-rests, and as protection for the trunk. Elephants are known to be right or left tusked. Female Asian elephants usually lack tusks – if tusks, in that case called “tushes” are present, they are barely visible, and only seen when the mouth is open.
The distinctive trunk is an elongation of the nose and upper lip combined – the nostrils are at its tip, which has a one finger-like process. The trunk contains as many as 60,000 muscles, which consist of longitudinal and radiating sets. The length may vary from 1.5 to 2 meter (59 to 79 in) or longer depending on the age. They can lift up to 350 kg (770 lb) with their trunks.
You can tall whether is African or Asian species by the shape of their ears. Two species from Africa have large ears shaped like the continent of Africa while this species have smaller ears shaped like India.
Elephants are crepuscular – active primarily during the twilight period.
They are classified as megaherbivores and consume up to 150 kg (330 lb) of plant matter per day. They are generalist feeders, and are both grazers and browsers. They are known to feed on at least 112 different plant species, most commonly of the order Malvales, as well as the legume, palm, sedge and true grass families.
They drink at least once a day and are never far from a permanent source of fresh water. They need 80–200 litres of water a day and use even more for bathing. At times, they scrape the soil for clay or minerals.
Adult females and calves move about together as groups, while adult males disperse from their mothers upon reaching adolescence. Bull elephants are solitary or form temporary “bachelor groups”.
Elephant females undergo the longest gestation period of all mammals. They are pregnant for 22 months and the female gives birth to one calf, only occasionally twins. At birth, the calf weighs about 100 kg (220 lb), and is suckled for up to three years. Once a female gives birth, she usually does not breed again until the first calf is weaned, resulting in a four to five-year birth interval. Females stay on with the herd, but mature males are chased away.
Asian elephants are more easily tamed than African elephants. People have used them as working animals for hundreds of years.
The demand for ivory during the 1970s and 1980s, particularly in East Asia, led to rampant poaching and the serious decline of elephants in both Africa and Asia.
Since 1986, the Asian elephant has been listed as Endangered on the IUCN Red List.
It is primarily threatened by loss of habitat, habitat degradation, fragmentation and poaching.
In many cultures, elephants represent strength, power, wisdom, longevity, stamina, leadership, sociability, nurturance and loyalty.