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The Asian Elephant

Asian Elephant Facts and Information

January, 2017

Asian elephants (Elephas maximus) are large vegetation eating mammals. They are one of two species of elephants, the other one is the larger African elephant.
Asian elephants have smaller ears than the African species, a long trunk and thick gray skin. The ears and the trunk are spotted.
Elephants love to wallow in mud holes and toss dirt over their bodies which acts as sunscreen and bug repellent. They also love to bathe, especially after their work is done.
Male Asian elephants have tusks, females do not have tusks, the oldest female normally leads the herd. Mature male elephants live mostly independent or sometimes they form a small group of bachelors.
Asian elephants have been domesticated for a very long time; they are used to do heavy work like helping with logging and harvesting. They also are used for ceremonial events.
They are often an object of worship, but also a target of hunters – they are gentle when domesticated but can be dangerous when wild.
Asian elephants are on the Endangered Species list. Habitats have changed: forests have been exploited for timber, fuel wood, pulp wood and cultivation for livestock has taken precious habitats from the elephants. Poaching for ivory still exists and elephants are being killed for raiding agricultural crops in their former habitats.
Asian elephants mature slowly, pregnancies are 18 to 22 months long, the females give birth only once every 3 to 4 years.
Elephants’ closest relatives are manatees.
The wild elephant can survive in a developing country, but their natural habitats have to be preserved or land-use planning has to include this: where habitats have been destroyed, plantations of suitable trees and vegetation and also water sources have to be newly established. Then animal populations must be allowed to regulate their numbers naturally in relation to environmental factors.
The elephant orphanage at Pinnawela has a “Captive Breeding Centre”. After the ban on capture of Asian Elephants in the nineteen sixties – owners of domestic elephants started looking for breeding possibilities. This led to the first “Breeding Program” launched in 1969 with the help of the University of Sri Lanka, the Smithsonian Institution and the World Wildlife Fund.
Breeding elephants in captivity is very, very difficult, the success rate is low, but veterinarians and their research have improved significantly. Let’s all hope, that these magnificent and beautiful creatures have a chance on life, have us humans as protectors and no longer as enemies.
Here in the USA we have programs to breed elephants but also to rescue them. My favorite rescue place for elephants is The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee – in Hohenwald. You actually can adopt an elephant there.


The Asian Elephant, R. Sukumar


Asian Elephant, Laura Klappenbach (

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