The Asian Elephant (Elephas Maximus),is found primarily in large parts of Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka, Indochina and parts of Indonesia. The Asian elephant is considered endangered, with between 25,600 and 32,750 individuals left in the wild. Asian elephants belong to the family of elephants (Elephantidae), which is included in the mammal order ‘Proboscidea’. The Asian elephant was formerly called the Indian elephant.
Asian Elephant Characteristics
The Asian elephant has an large domed head with relatively small ears, an arched back and a single prehensile finger that is located at the tip of the trunk. An Asian elephant has 5 toes on the front of the feet and and 4 on the back. A large male Asian elephant can typically weigh 6 tons and measure 10 feet in height at the shoulder. The male Asian elephants have tusks and the females have ‘tushes’, which are short second incisors that just stick out beyond the upper lip.
An Asian Elephant has a low neck which is curved upwards and protruding foreheads which appears as two noticeable bumps. Their under lip is long, narrow and pointed. An Asian elephants skin is less wrinkled than the African elephants and only about 50% of Asian Elephant bulls have long tusks.
Asian elephants have rather poor vision and are only capable of seeing clearly at very short distances up to about 10 metres. However, they have excellent hearing which is superior to human standards. Their large ears act as amplifiers and warn of possible dangers. Asian elephants have an excellent sense of smell which is thought to be superior to that of any other land mammal. They have excellent balance achieved by high tactile sense. The trunk, an incredibly versatile organ, contributes greatly to this ability.
Asian Elephant Reproduction
Male Asian elephants are quite solitary and only join the herd for mating seasons. Sometimes, male elephants will duel and the winner becomes the primary mating partner for the whole herd. The female Asian elephants run away for a short while, as part of a ritual, before mating with the victorious mate. The mating couple then remain together for around 3 weeks before the male heads off to the bachelor herd.
The gestation period of the female Asian elephant is between 19 and 22 months. When she gives birth, the other herd females form a circle around the pregnant cow. She assumes a squatting position while giving birth and the birth takes around 2 hours. Just 2 hours after birth the calf can stand up and begins to suckle the mother.
Baby elephants (calves) suckle their mother using the mouth and not their trunks. Baby elephants are weaned on milk for between 2 to 4 years. Although the calf will naturally be attracted to its mother, other females in the herd often take turns to look after the baby. If the mother dies then the other female elephants look after the orphaned calf.
In regions where large carnivores, such as big cats, prey upon newly born elephants, the mother forms alliances with other herd members. Mother and associated protectors then blow dust over the new-born calf with their trunks in order to dry it.
Female elephants can bear young at the age of 15 – 16 years. They are fully grown at 20 years old. Elephants are in their working prime between 20 – 40 years old. Female elephants start going bald around 30 years old and begin to slow down at around 40 years old and begin to do only light duties only when they reach 50 years old. Female Asian elephant live to be around 70 years old.
Asian Elephant Sizes
- Elephants are the largest of all land creatures.
- A male elephant can stand 2.7metres (9 feet) in height.
- A male elephant can weigh between 3 – 5 tonnes.
- Female elephants can stand 2.3 metres (7.5 feet) in height.
- Female elephants can weigh between 2.3 – 4.5 tonnes.
- Newly born baby elephants (calves) stand at around (0.9 metres) 3 feet.
- Newly born baby elephants weigh 90 kilograms (200 pounds).
Asian Elephant Trunks
The elephants trunk is the most versatile of all animal organs. The trunk can be used for such diverse tasks as shifting a 600 kilograms log to picking up a blade of grass. It is a boneless mass of flesh and contains up to 100,000 muscles that are very flexible. It is usually 2 metres long and weighs around 140 kilograms.
The trunk has a small finger like lip at the end which can distinguish between size, shape, texture, hot and cold. The animal uses its trunk to feed and drink by bringing food and water to the mouth. An elephant also uses its trunk to breathe, make noises, caress its young. When totally submerged in water the trunk can also be used as a snorkel. Trunks can hold six litres of water and are often used as a flexible shower hose pipe. It is a superb organ of smell, and can be directed easily towards where the smell is coming from.
By beating the ground violently with the trunk the elephant signals its anger or displeasure. When an elephant is on unsteady or unfamiliar ground it will use the outside of the trunk to beat the earth, determining if the ground is firm enough to walk on. Once safety is confirmed, the front foot is moved forward onto the tested area. The rear foot follows and is carefully placed in exactly the same footprint.
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