Asian Elephant
Overview
The Asian or Asiatic elephant (Elephas maximus) is the only living species of the genus Elephas
Elephas
Elephas is one of two surviving genera in the order of elephants, Proboscidea. The genus has one surviving species, the Asian elephant Elephas maximus....

and distributed in Southeast Asia
Southeast Asia
Southeast Asia, South-East Asia, South East Asia or Southeastern Asia is a subregion of Asia, consisting of the countries that are geographically south of China, east of India, west of New Guinea and north of Australia. The region lies on the intersection of geological plates, with heavy seismic...

 from India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

 in the west to Borneo
Borneo
Borneo is the third largest island in the world and is located north of Java Island, Indonesia, at the geographic centre of Maritime Southeast Asia....

 in the east. Three subspecies are recognized — Elephas maximus maximus from Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka, officially the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka is a country off the southern coast of the Indian subcontinent. Known until 1972 as Ceylon , Sri Lanka is an island surrounded by the Indian Ocean, the Gulf of Mannar and the Palk Strait, and lies in the vicinity of India and the...

, the Indian elephant or E. m. indicus
Indian Elephant
The Indian Elephant is one of three recognized subspecies of the Asian elephant, and native to mainland Asia. Since 1986, Elephas maximus has been listed as endangered by IUCN as the population has declined by at least 50% over the last three generations, estimated to be 60–75 years...

 from mainland Asia, and E. m. sumatranus
Sumatran Elephant
The Sumatran Elephant is one of three recognized subspecies of the Asian Elephant, and native to Sumatra island of Indonesia. Since 1986, Elephas maximus has been listed as endangered by IUCN as the population has declined by at least 50% over the last three generations, estimated to be 60–75 years...

from the island of Sumatra
Sumatra
Sumatra is an island in western Indonesia, westernmost of the Sunda Islands. It is the largest island entirely in Indonesia , and the sixth largest island in the world at 473,481 km2 with a population of 50,365,538...

. Asian elephants are the largest living land animals in Asia
Asia
Asia is the world's largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the eastern and northern hemispheres. It covers 8.7% of the Earth's total surface area and with approximately 3.879 billion people, it hosts 60% of the world's current human population...

.

Since 1986, Elephas maximus has been listed as endangered
Endangered species
An endangered species is a population of organisms which is at risk of becoming extinct because it is either few in numbers, or threatened by changing environmental or predation parameters...

 by IUCN as the population has declined by at least 50% over the last three generations, estimated to be 60–75 years.
Encyclopedia
The Asian or Asiatic elephant (Elephas maximus) is the only living species of the genus Elephas
Elephas
Elephas is one of two surviving genera in the order of elephants, Proboscidea. The genus has one surviving species, the Asian elephant Elephas maximus....

and distributed in Southeast Asia
Southeast Asia
Southeast Asia, South-East Asia, South East Asia or Southeastern Asia is a subregion of Asia, consisting of the countries that are geographically south of China, east of India, west of New Guinea and north of Australia. The region lies on the intersection of geological plates, with heavy seismic...

 from India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

 in the west to Borneo
Borneo
Borneo is the third largest island in the world and is located north of Java Island, Indonesia, at the geographic centre of Maritime Southeast Asia....

 in the east. Three subspecies are recognized — Elephas maximus maximus from Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka, officially the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka is a country off the southern coast of the Indian subcontinent. Known until 1972 as Ceylon , Sri Lanka is an island surrounded by the Indian Ocean, the Gulf of Mannar and the Palk Strait, and lies in the vicinity of India and the...

, the Indian elephant or E. m. indicus
Indian Elephant
The Indian Elephant is one of three recognized subspecies of the Asian elephant, and native to mainland Asia. Since 1986, Elephas maximus has been listed as endangered by IUCN as the population has declined by at least 50% over the last three generations, estimated to be 60–75 years...

 from mainland Asia, and E. m. sumatranus
Sumatran Elephant
The Sumatran Elephant is one of three recognized subspecies of the Asian Elephant, and native to Sumatra island of Indonesia. Since 1986, Elephas maximus has been listed as endangered by IUCN as the population has declined by at least 50% over the last three generations, estimated to be 60–75 years...

from the island of Sumatra
Sumatra
Sumatra is an island in western Indonesia, westernmost of the Sunda Islands. It is the largest island entirely in Indonesia , and the sixth largest island in the world at 473,481 km2 with a population of 50,365,538...

. Asian elephants are the largest living land animals in Asia
Asia
Asia is the world's largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the eastern and northern hemispheres. It covers 8.7% of the Earth's total surface area and with approximately 3.879 billion people, it hosts 60% of the world's current human population...

.

Since 1986, Elephas maximus has been listed as endangered
Endangered species
An endangered species is a population of organisms which is at risk of becoming extinct because it is either few in numbers, or threatened by changing environmental or predation parameters...

 by IUCN as the population has declined by at least 50% over the last three generations, estimated to be 60–75 years. The species is pre-eminently threatened by habitat loss, degradation and fragmentation. In 2003, the wild population was estimated at between 41,410 and 52,345 individuals.

Asian elephants are rather long-lived, with a maximum recorded life span of 86 years.

This animal is widely domesticated
Domestication
Domestication or taming is the process whereby a population of animals or plants, through a process of selection, becomes accustomed to human provision and control. In the Convention on Biological Diversity a domesticated species is defined as a 'species in which the evolutionary process has been...

, and has been used in forestry
Forestry
Forestry is the interdisciplinary profession embracing the science, art, and craft of creating, managing, using, and conserving forests and associated resources in a sustainable manner to meet desired goals, needs, and values for human benefit. Forestry is practiced in plantations and natural stands...

 in South
South Asia
South Asia, also known as Southern Asia, is the southern region of the Asian continent, which comprises the sub-Himalayan countries and, for some authorities , also includes the adjoining countries to the west and the east...

 and Southeast Asia
Southeast Asia
Southeast Asia, South-East Asia, South East Asia or Southeastern Asia is a subregion of Asia, consisting of the countries that are geographically south of China, east of India, west of New Guinea and north of Australia. The region lies on the intersection of geological plates, with heavy seismic...

 for centuries and also for ceremonial
Ceremony
A ceremony is an event of ritual significance, performed on a special occasion. The word may be of Etruscan origin.-Ceremonial occasions:A ceremony may mark a rite of passage in a human life, marking the significance of, for example:* birth...

 purposes. Historical sources indicate that they were used during harvest seasons primarily for milling. Wild elephants attract tourist
Tourism
Tourism is travel for recreational, leisure or business purposes. The World Tourism Organization defines tourists as people "traveling to and staying in places outside their usual environment for not more than one consecutive year for leisure, business and other purposes".Tourism has become a...

 money to the areas where they can most readily be seen, but damage crops
Crop (agriculture)
A crop is a non-animal species or variety that is grown to be harvested as food, livestock fodder, fuel or for any other economic purpose. Major world crops include maize , wheat, rice, soybeans, hay, potatoes and cotton. While the term "crop" most commonly refers to plants, it can also include...

, and may enter villages to raid gardens.

Characteristics

In general, Asian elephants are smaller than African elephants and have the highest body point on the head. Their back is convex or level. Their ear
Ear
The ear is the organ that detects sound. It not only receives sound, but also aids in balance and body position. The ear is part of the auditory system....

s are small with dorsal borders folded laterally. They have up to 20 pairs of ribs and 34 caudal vertebrae. Their feet have more nail-like structures than the ones of African elephants — five on each forefoot, and four on each hind foot.

Size

Large bull elephants weigh up to 5400 kg (11,905 lb) and are 3.2 m (10.5 ft) high at the shoulder. Females weigh up to 4160 kg (9,171.2 lb) and reach 2.54 m (8.3 ft) at the shoulder. The skeleton constitutes about 15% of their body weight.

The sizes of wild Asian elephants have been exaggerated in the past. Record elephants may have measured as high as 3.7 m (12.1 ft) at the shoulder. Shoulder height is estimated using the rule of thumb
Rule of thumb
A rule of thumb is a principle with broad application that is not intended to be strictly accurate or reliable for every situation. It is an easily learned and easily applied procedure for approximately calculating or recalling some value, or for making some determination...

 of twice the forefoot circumference.

Richard Lydekker
Richard Lydekker
Richard Lydekker was an English naturalist, geologist and writer of numerous books on natural history.-Biography:...

 documents sizes observed in the 19th century:

The heaviest bull elephant recorded was shot by the Maharajah of Susang in the Garo Hills of Assam
Assam
Assam , also, rarely, Assam Valley and formerly the Assam Province , is a northeastern state of India and is one of the most culturally and geographically distinct regions of the country...

, India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

 in 1924, and was 8 tonnes (8.8 ST), 3.35 m (11 ft) tall and 8.06 m (26.4 ft) long.

Trunk

The distinctive trunk is an elongation of 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 longitudinals are mostly superficial and subdivided into anterior, lateral and posterior. The deeper muscles are best seen as numerous distinct fasciculi in a cross section of the trunk. The trunk is a multi-purpose prehensile organ and highly sensitive, innervated by the maxillary division of the trigeminal nerve
Trigeminal nerve
The trigeminal nerve contains both sensory and motor fibres. It is responsible for sensation in the face and certain motor functions such as biting, chewing, and swallowing. Sensory information from the face and body is processed by parallel pathways in the central nervous system...

 and by the facial nerve
Facial nerve
The facial nerve is the seventh of twelve paired cranial nerves. It emerges from the brainstem between the pons and the medulla, and controls the muscles of facial expression, and functions in the conveyance of taste sensations from the anterior two-thirds of the tongue and oral cavity...

. The acute sense of smell uses both the trunk and Jacobson's organ. Elephants use their trunks for breathing, watering, feeding, touching, dusting, sound production and communication, washing, pinching, grasping, defense and offense.

The proboscis
Proboscis
A proboscis is an elongated appendage from the head of an animal, either a vertebrate or an invertebrate. In simpler terms, a proboscis is the straw-like mouth found in several varieties of species.-Etymology:...

or trunk consists wholly of muscular and membranous tissue, and is a tapering muscular structure of nearly circular cross-section extending proximally from attachment at the anterior nasal orifice, and ending distally in a tip or finger. The length may vary from 1.5 to 2 m (59.1 to 78.7 in) or longer depending on the species and age. Four basic muscle masses – the radial, the longitudinal and two oblique layers – and the size and attachments points of the tendon
Tendon
A tendon is a tough band of fibrous connective tissue that usually connects muscle to bone and is capable of withstanding tension. Tendons are similar to ligaments and fasciae as they are all made of collagen except that ligaments join one bone to another bone, and fasciae connect muscles to other...

 masses allow the shortening, extension, bending, and twisting movements accounting for the ability to hold, and manipulate loads of up to 300 kg (661.4 lb). Muscular and tendinous ability combined with nervous control allows extraordinary strength and agility movements of the trunk, such as sucking and spraying of water or dust and directed air flow blowing.

The trunk can hold about four litres of water. Elephants will playfully wrestle with each other using their trunks, but generally use their trunks only for gesturing when fighting.

Tusks

Tusks serve to dig for water, salt, and rocks, to debark trees, as levers for maneuvering fallen trees and branches, for work, for display, for marking trees, as weapon for offense and defense, as trunk-rests, as protection for the trunk. They are known to be right or left tusked.

Female Asian elephants usually lacks tusk
Tusk
Tusks are elongated, continuously growing front teeth, usually but not always in pairs, that protrude well beyond the mouth of certain mammal species. They are most commonly canines, as with warthogs, wild boar, and walruses, or, in the case of elephants and narwhals, elongated incisors...

s; if tusks — in that case called "tushes" — are present, they are barely visible, and only seen when they open the mouth. The enamel plates
Tooth enamel
Tooth enamel, along with dentin, cementum, and dental pulp is one of the four major tissues that make up the tooth in vertebrates. It is the hardest and most highly mineralized substance in the human body. Tooth enamel is also found in the dermal denticles of sharks...

 of the molars are greater in number and closer together in Asian elephants. Some males may also lack tusks; these individuals are called "filsy makhnas", and are especially common among the Sri Lankan elephant population. Furthermore, the forehead has two hemispherical bulges, unlike the flat front of the African elephant. Unlike African elephants which rarely use their forefeet for anything other than digging or scraping soil, Asian elephants are more agile at using their feet in conjunction with the trunk for manipulating objects. They can sometimes be known for their violent behavior.

A record tusk described by George P. Sanderson
George P. Sanderson
George Peress Sanderson was born in India in 1848, the son of Rev. Daniel Sanderson, who was a Methodist missionary in India from 1842 to 1867. George Sanderson was sent home for schooling to his father’s family in Cockermouth, Cumbria...

 measured 5 ft (1.5 m) along the curve, with a girth of 16 in (40.6 cm) at the point of emergence from the jaw, the weight being 104+1/2 lb. This was from an elephant killed by Sir V. Brooke and measured 8 ft (2.4 m) in length, and nearly 17 in (43.2 cm) in circumference, and weighed 90 lb (40.8 kg). The tusk's weight was, however, exceeded by the weight of a shorter tusk of about 6 ft (1.8 m) in length which weighed 100 lb (45.4 kg).

Skin

Skin color is usually gray, and may be masked by dirt because of dusting and wallowing. Their wrinkled skin is movable and contains many nerve centers. It is smoother than of African elephants, and may be depigmented
Depigmentation
Depigmentation is the lightening of the skin, or loss of pigment. Depigmentation of the skin can be caused by a number of local and systemic conditions. The pigment loss can be partial or complete...

 on the trunk, ears, or neck. The epidermis
Epidermis (zoology)
The Epidermis is an epithelium that covers the body of an eumetazoan . Eumetazoa have a cavity lined with a similar epithelium, the gastrodermis, which forms a boundary with the epidermis at the mouth.Sponges have no epithelium, and therefore no epidermis or gastrodermis...

 and dermis
Dermis
The dermis is a layer of skin between the epidermis and subcutaneous tissues, and is composed of two layers, the papillary and reticular dermis...

 of the body average 18 mm (0.708661417322835 in) thick; skin on the dorsum
Dorsum (biology)
In anatomy, the dorsum is the upper side of animals that typically run, fly, or swim in a horizontal position, and the back side of animals that walk upright. In vertebrates the dorsum contains the backbone. The term dorsal refers to anatomical structures that are either situated toward or grow...

 is 30 mm (1.2 in) thick providing protection against bites, bumps, and adverse weather. Its folds increase surface area for heat dissipation. They can tolerate cold better than excessive heat. Skin temperature varies from 24 to 32.9 °C (75.2 to 91.2 F). Body temperature averages 35.9 °C (96.6 °F).

Intelligence

Asian elephants are highly intelligent and self-aware. They have a very large and highly convoluted neocortex
Neocortex
The neocortex , also called the neopallium and isocortex , is a part of the brain of mammals. It is the outer layer of the cerebral hemispheres, and made up of six layers, labelled I to VI...

, a trait also shared by humans, apes and certain dolphin
Dolphin
Dolphins are marine mammals that are closely related to whales and porpoises. There are almost forty species of dolphin in 17 genera. They vary in size from and , up to and . They are found worldwide, mostly in the shallower seas of the continental shelves, and are carnivores, mostly eating...

 species. Asian elephants have the greatest volume of cerebral cortex
Cerebral cortex
The cerebral cortex is a sheet of neural tissue that is outermost to the cerebrum of the mammalian brain. It plays a key role in memory, attention, perceptual awareness, thought, language, and consciousness. It is constituted of up to six horizontal layers, each of which has a different...

 available for cognitive processing of all existing land animals. Elephants have a volume of cerebral cortex
Cerebral cortex
The cerebral cortex is a sheet of neural tissue that is outermost to the cerebrum of the mammalian brain. It plays a key role in memory, attention, perceptual awareness, thought, language, and consciousness. It is constituted of up to six horizontal layers, each of which has a different...

 available for cognitive processing that exceeds that of any primate
Primate
A primate is a mammal of the order Primates , which contains prosimians and simians. Primates arose from ancestors that lived in the trees of tropical forests; many primate characteristics represent adaptations to life in this challenging three-dimensional environment...

 species, and extensive studies place elephants in the category of great apes
Great Apes
Great Apes may refer to*Great apes, species in the biological family Hominidae, including humans, chimpanzees, gorillas, and orangutans*Great Apes , a 1997 novel by Will Self...

 in terms of cognitive abilities for tool use and tool making. Elephants have been known to go to safer ground during natural disasters like tsunamis and earthquakes.

Distribution and habitat

Asian elephants inhabit grasslands, tropical evergreen forest, semi-evergreen forest, moist deciduous forest, dry deciduous forested and dry thorn forest, in addition to cultivated and secondary forests and scrublands. Over this range of habitat types elephants are seen from sea level to over 3000 m (9,842.5 ft). In the Eastern Himalaya in northeast India, they regularly move up above 3000 m (9,842.5 ft) in summer at a few sites.

Three subspecies are recognized:
  • the Sri Lankan Elephant
    Sri Lankan Elephant
    The Sri Lankan Elephant is one of three recognized subspecies of the Asian Elephant, and native to Sri Lanka. Since 1986, Elephas maximus has been listed as endangered by IUCN as the population has declined by at least 50% over the last three generations, estimated to be 60–75 years...

     lives in Sri Lanka
    Sri Lanka
    Sri Lanka, officially the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka is a country off the southern coast of the Indian subcontinent. Known until 1972 as Ceylon , Sri Lanka is an island surrounded by the Indian Ocean, the Gulf of Mannar and the Palk Strait, and lies in the vicinity of India and the...

    ;
  • the Indian Elephant
    Indian Elephant
    The Indian Elephant is one of three recognized subspecies of the Asian elephant, and native to mainland Asia. Since 1986, Elephas maximus has been listed as endangered by IUCN as the population has declined by at least 50% over the last three generations, estimated to be 60–75 years...

     lives in mainland Asia: India
    India
    India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

    , Nepal
    Nepal
    Nepal , officially the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal, is a landlocked sovereign state located in South Asia. It is located in the Himalayas and bordered to the north by the People's Republic of China, and to the south, east, and west by the Republic of India...

    , Bangladesh
    Bangladesh
    Bangladesh , officially the People's Republic of Bangladesh is a sovereign state located in South Asia. It is bordered by India on all sides except for a small border with Burma to the far southeast and by the Bay of Bengal to the south...

    , Bhutan
    Bhutan
    Bhutan , officially the Kingdom of Bhutan, is a landlocked state in South Asia, located at the eastern end of the Himalayas and bordered to the south, east and west by the Republic of India and to the north by the People's Republic of China...

    , Myanmar
    Myanmar
    Burma , officially the Republic of the Union of Myanmar , is a country in Southeast Asia. Burma is bordered by China on the northeast, Laos on the east, Thailand on the southeast, Bangladesh on the west, India on the northwest, the Bay of Bengal to the southwest, and the Andaman Sea on the south....

    , Thailand
    Thailand
    Thailand , officially the Kingdom of Thailand , formerly known as Siam , is a country located at the centre of the Indochina peninsula and Southeast Asia. It is bordered to the north by Burma and Laos, to the east by Laos and Cambodia, to the south by the Gulf of Thailand and Malaysia, and to the...

    , Malay Peninsular, Vietnam
    Vietnam
    Vietnam – sometimes spelled Viet Nam , officially the Socialist Republic of Vietnam – is the easternmost country on the Indochina Peninsula in Southeast Asia. It is bordered by China to the north, Laos to the northwest, Cambodia to the southwest, and the South China Sea –...

    , Cambodia
    Cambodia
    Cambodia , officially known as the Kingdom of Cambodia, is a country located in the southern portion of the Indochina Peninsula in Southeast Asia...

    , Laos
    Laos
    Laos Lao: ສາທາລະນະລັດ ປະຊາທິປະໄຕ ປະຊາຊົນລາວ Sathalanalat Paxathipatai Paxaxon Lao, officially the Lao People's Democratic Republic, is a landlocked country in Southeast Asia, bordered by Burma and China to the northwest, Vietnam to the east, Cambodia to the south and Thailand to the west...

    , and China
    China
    Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

    ;
  • the Sumatran Elephant
    Sumatran Elephant
    The Sumatran Elephant is one of three recognized subspecies of the Asian Elephant, and native to Sumatra island of Indonesia. Since 1986, Elephas maximus has been listed as endangered by IUCN as the population has declined by at least 50% over the last three generations, estimated to be 60–75 years...

     lives in Sumatra
    Sumatra
    Sumatra is an island in western Indonesia, westernmost of the Sunda Islands. It is the largest island entirely in Indonesia , and the sixth largest island in the world at 473,481 km2 with a population of 50,365,538...

     and Borneo
    Borneo
    Borneo is the third largest island in the world and is located north of Java Island, Indonesia, at the geographic centre of Maritime Southeast Asia....

    .


In China, Asian elephants survive only in the prefectures of Xishuangbanna, Simao
Simao District
Simao District is a district under the jurisdiction of Pu'er Prefecture, Yunnan Province, China. It is the seat of Puer Prefecture....

, and Lincang of southern Yunnan
Yunnan
Yunnan is a province of the People's Republic of China, located in the far southwest of the country spanning approximately and with a population of 45.7 million . The capital of the province is Kunming. The province borders Burma, Laos, and Vietnam.Yunnan is situated in a mountainous area, with...

. In Bangladesh only isolated populations survive in the Chittagong Hills.

Ecology and behavior

Elephants are crepuscular
Crepuscular
Crepuscular animals are those that are active primarily during twilight, that is during dawn and dusk. The word is derived from the Latin word crepusculum, meaning "twilight." Crepuscular is, thus, in contrast with diurnal and nocturnal behavior. Crepuscular animals may also be active on a bright...

. They are megaherbivores and consume up to 150 kg (330.7 lb) of plant matter per day. They are generalist feeders, and both grazers
Grazing
Grazing generally describes a type of feeding, in which a herbivore feeds on plants , and also on other multicellular autotrophs...

 and browsers
Browsing (predation)
Browsing is a type of herbivory in which an herbivore feeds on leaves, soft shoots, or fruits of high growing, generally woody, plants such as shrubs. This is contrasted with grazing, usually associated with animals feeding on grass or other low vegetation...

, and were recorded to feed on 112 different plant species, most commonly of the order Malvales
Malvales
Malvales are an order of flowering plants. As circumscribed by APG II-system, it includes about 6000 species within nine families. The order is placed in the eurosids II, which are part of the eudicots....

, and the legume, palm, sedge
Cyperaceae
Cyperaceae are a family of monocotyledonous graminoid flowering plants known as sedges, which superficially resemble grasses or rushes. The family is large, with some 5,500 species described in about 109 genera. These species are widely distributed, with the centers of diversity for the group...

 and true grass families. They browse more in the dry season with bark constituting a major part of their diet in the cool part of that season.

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 minerals and occasionally will eat their own faeces if hungry.

Elephant herds follow well-defined seasonal migration routes. These are made around the monsoon
Monsoon
Monsoon is traditionally defined as a seasonal reversing wind accompanied by corresponding changes in precipitation, but is now used to describe seasonal changes in atmospheric circulation and precipitation associated with the asymmetric heating of land and sea...

 seasons, often between the wet and dry zones, and it is the task of the eldest elephant to remember and follow the traditional migration routes. When human farms are founded along these old routes there is often considerable damage done to crops, and it is common for elephants to be killed in the ensuing conflicts.

A herd or clan is organized along matriarchal lines, and the older cow will coordinate movements. Herds of cows range from 8 to 21 animals. Adult males do not attach themselves to a herd of cows unless it contains a female in estrus. More than one adult male may accompany cows, but in general the dominant bull will mate with the cows. Younger bulls will occasionally engage in mock fighting. Strong fights over access to females are extremely rare.
Bull elephants form small groups known as 'bachelor herds', but bulls may also roam independently at various times.

Elephants are able to distinguish low amplitude sounds. They use infrasound
Infrasound
Infrasound is sound that is lower in frequency than 20 Hz or cycles per second, the "normal" limit of human hearing. Hearing becomes gradually less sensitive as frequency decreases, so for humans to perceive infrasound, the sound pressure must be sufficiently high...

 to communicate; this was first noted by the Indian naturalist M. Krishnan and later studied by Katharine Payne
Katharine Payne
Katharine Boynton Payne is a researcher in the Bioacoustics Research Program at the Laboratory of Ornithology at Cornell University. In 1999, she founded the lab's .-Career:...

.

An adult full grown healthy male Asian elephant has hardly any natural predators, but there have been rare instances of tiger
Tiger
The tiger is the largest cat species, reaching a total body length of up to and weighing up to . Their most recognizable feature is a pattern of dark vertical stripes on reddish-orange fur with lighter underparts...

s preying on young or weak elephants.

Reproduction

Bulls will fight one another to get access to estrous females. Bulls reach sexual maturity around the age of 12–15. Between the age of 10 to 20 years, bulls undergo an annual phenomenon known as "musth
Musth
Musth or must is a periodic condition in bull elephants, characterized by highly aggressive behavior, accompanied by a large rise in reproductive hormones - testosterone levels in an elephant in musth can be as much as 60 times greater than in the same elephant at other times...

". This is a period where the testosterone
Testosterone
Testosterone is a steroid hormone from the androgen group and is found in mammals, reptiles, birds, and other vertebrates. In mammals, testosterone is primarily secreted in the testes of males and the ovaries of females, although small amounts are also secreted by the adrenal glands...

 level is up to 100 times greater than non-musth periods, and they become extremely aggressive. Secretions containing pheromones occur during this period, from the paired temporal glands located on the head between the lateral edge of the eye and the base of the ear.

The gestation period
Gestation period
For mammals the gestation period is the time in which a fetus develops, beginning with fertilization and ending at birth. The duration of this period varies between species.-Duration:...

 is 18–22 months, and the female gives birth to one , or occasionally twin
Twin
A twin is one of two offspring produced in the same pregnancy. Twins can either be monozygotic , meaning that they develop from one zygote that splits and forms two embryos, or dizygotic because they develop from two separate eggs that are fertilized by two separate sperm.In contrast, a fetus...

s. The calf is fully developed by the 19th month but stays in the womb
Uterus
The uterus or womb is a major female hormone-responsive reproductive sex organ of most mammals including humans. One end, the cervix, opens into the vagina, while the other is connected to one or both fallopian tubes, depending on the species...

 to grow so that it can reach its mother to feed. At birth, the calf weighs about 100 kg (220.5 lb), and is suckled
Lactation
Lactation describes the secretion of milk from the mammary glands and the period of time that a mother lactates to feed her young. The process occurs in all female mammals, however it predates mammals. In humans the process of feeding milk is called breastfeeding or nursing...

 for up to 2–3 years. Once a female gives birth, she usually does not breed again until the first calf is weaned, resulting in a 4–5-year birth interval. Females stay on with the herd, but mature males are chased away.

Elephants' life expectancy
Life expectancy
Life expectancy is the expected number of years of life remaining at a given age. It is denoted by ex, which means the average number of subsequent years of life for someone now aged x, according to a particular mortality experience...

 have been exaggerated in the past; they live on average for 60 years in the wild and 80 in captivity.

Females produce sex pheromone
Pheromone
A pheromone is a secreted or excreted chemical factor that triggers a social response in members of the same species. Pheromones are chemicals capable of acting outside the body of the secreting individual to impact the behavior of the receiving individual...

s; a principal component thereof, (Z)-7-dodecen-1-yl acetate, has also been found to be a sex pheromone in numerous species of insects.

Interaction with humans

At most seasons of the year Asian elephants are timid and much more ready to flee from a foe than to make an attack. However, solitary rogues are frequently an exception to this rule, and sometimes make unprovoked attacks on passers-by. Rogue elephants sometimes take up a position near a road making it impassable to travellers. Females with calves are at all times dangerous to approach. When an Asian elephant makes a charge, it tightly curls up its trunk and attacks by trampling its victim with feet or knees, or, if a male, by pinning it to the ground with its tusks. During musth
Musth
Musth or must is a periodic condition in bull elephants, characterized by highly aggressive behavior, accompanied by a large rise in reproductive hormones - testosterone levels in an elephant in musth can be as much as 60 times greater than in the same elephant at other times...

bulls are highly dangerous, not only to human beings but also to its fellow animals. At the first indications, domestic elephants are secured tightly to prevent any mishaps. A grander animated object than a wild elephant in full charge can hardly be imagined. The cocked ears and broad forehead present an immense frontage; the head is held high, with the trunk curled between the tusks, to be uncoiled in the moment of attack; the massive fore-legs come down with the force and regularity of ponderous machinery; and the whole figure is rapidly foreshortened, and appears to double in size with each advancing stride. The trunk being curled and unable to emit any sound, the attack is made in silence, after the usual premonitory shriek, which adds to its impressiveness. The usual pictorial representations of the Indian elephant charging with upraised trunk are accordingly quite incorrect.

In captivity

The first historical record of domestication of Asian elephants was in Harappan
Indus Valley Civilization
The Indus Valley Civilization was a Bronze Age civilization that was located in the northwestern region of the Indian subcontinent, consisting of what is now mainly modern-day Pakistan and northwest India...

 times. Ultimately the elephant went on to become a siege engine, a mount in war, a status symbol, a work animal, and an elevated platform for hunting during historical times in South Asia
South Asia
South Asia, also known as Southern Asia, is the southern region of the Asian continent, which comprises the sub-Himalayan countries and, for some authorities , also includes the adjoining countries to the west and the east...

.

Elephants have been captured from the wild and tamed for use by humans. Their ability to work under instruction makes them particularly useful for carrying heavy objects. They have been used particularly for timber-carrying in jungle areas. Other than their work use, they have been used in war, in ceremonies, and for carriage. They have been used for their ability to travel over difficult terrain by hunters, for whom they served as mobile hunting platforms. The same purpose is met in safaris in modern times.

Human-elephant conflict

One of the major instigators of human–wildlife conflict is competition for space. Destruction of forests through logging
Logging
Logging is the cutting, skidding, on-site processing, and loading of trees or logs onto trucks.In forestry, the term logging is sometimes used in a narrow sense concerning the logistics of moving wood from the stump to somewhere outside the forest, usually a sawmill or a lumber yard...

, encroachment
Encroachment
Encroachment is a term which implies "advance beyond proper limits," and may have different interpretations depending on the context. Encroachment may refer to one of the following:* Temporal encroachment* Structural encroachment...

, slash-and-burn shifting cultivation
Shifting cultivation
Shifting cultivation is an agricultural system in which plots of land are cultivated temporarily, then abandoned. This system often involves clearing of a piece of land followed by several years of wood harvesting or farming, until the soil loses fertility...

, and monoculture
Monoculture
Monoculture is the agricultural practice of producing or growing one single crop over a wide area. It is also known as a way of farming practice of growing large stands of a single species. It is widely used in modern industrial agriculture and its implementation has allowed for large harvests from...

 tree plantations are major threats to the survival of the elephant. The forest cover in NE India is disappearing at an alarming rate. More than half of the elephants’ habitat has been lost since 1950. Crop raiding by elephants is a common occurrence throughout the region. During the paddy
Paddy
Paddy may refer to:*Paddy , a World War II carrier pigeon*Paddy , a comic strip*Paddy field, a type of cultivated land*Paddy Whiskey, a liquor*Patrick , including people with the name*Padraic, including people with the name...

 season, many elephants travel to the plains of Assam and remain at the edge of the forest for a few weeks. Among the shifting cultivators and the individuals living in the hilly areas, human–elephant conflicts occur when the elephants raid their crops, which are scattered over a large area of fields interspersed with forests. Depredation in human settlements is another major area of human–elephant conflict. Most of these conflicts, however, occur in small forest pockets, encroachments in elephant habitat, and on elephant migration routes. Between 1980 and 2003, more than 1,150 humans and 370 elephants have died as a result of human–elephant conflicts in Northeast India. Construction of electric fencing has failed to eliminate conflicts despite its initial success. When the fencing was erected, the elephants innovated an intelligent method of breaking fencing posts by holding the top of the wooden posts by their trunk and breaking at the middle
by gently pushing their foot, thus avoiding the live wires.

Taxonomy

Carl Linnaeus first described the genus Elephas and an elephant from Ceylon under the binomial
Binomial nomenclature
Binomial nomenclature is a formal system of naming species of living things by giving each a name composed of two parts, both of which use Latin grammatical forms, although they can be based on words from other languages...

 Elephas maximus in 1758. In 1798, Georges Cuvier
Georges Cuvier
Georges Chrétien Léopold Dagobert Cuvier or Jean Léopold Nicolas Frédéric Cuvier , known as Georges Cuvier, was a French naturalist and zoologist...

 first described the Indian elephant under the binomial Elephas indicus. In 1847, Coenraad Jacob Temminck
Coenraad Jacob Temminck
Coenraad Jacob Temminck was a Dutch aristocrat and zoologist.Temminck was the first director of the National Natural History Museum at Leiden from 1820 until his death. His Manuel d'ornithologie, ou Tableau systematique des oiseaux qui se trouvent en Europe was the standard work on European birds...

 first described the Sumatran elephant under the binomial Elephas sumatranus. Frederick Nutter Chasen
Frederick Nutter Chasen
Frederick Nutter Chasen was an English zoologist.Chasen was appointed Assistant Curator of the Raffles Museum in Singapore in 1921, and Director in 1932 in succession to Cecil Boden Kloss. He was an authority on Southeast Asian birds and mammals. He prepared the third and fourth volumes of...

 classified all three as subspecies of the Asian elephant in 1940.

In 1950, Paules Edward Pieris Deraniyagala described the Borneo elephant under the trinomial Elephas maximus borneensis
Borneo Elephant
The Borneo Elephant also called the Borneo Pygmy Elephant inhabits northeastern Borneo. Its origin remains the subject of debate. A definitive subspecific classification as Elephas maximus borneensis awaits a detailed range-wide morphometric and genetic study...

, taking as his type an illustration in the National Geographical Magazine, but not a living elephant in accordance with the rules of the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature
International Code of Zoological Nomenclature
The International Code of Zoological Nomenclature is a widely accepted convention in zoology that rules the formal scientific naming of organisms treated as animals...

. E. m. borneensis lives in northern Borneo
Borneo
Borneo is the third largest island in the world and is located north of Java Island, Indonesia, at the geographic centre of Maritime Southeast Asia....

 and is smaller than all the other subspecies, but with larger ears, a longer tail, and straight tusks. Results of genetic analysis
Genetic analysis
Genetic analysis can be used generally to describe methods both used in and resulting from the sciences of genetics and molecular biology, or to applications resulting from this research....

 indicate that its ancestors separated from the mainland population about 300,000 years ago.

The population in Vietnam
Vietnam
Vietnam – sometimes spelled Viet Nam , officially the Socialist Republic of Vietnam – is the easternmost country on the Indochina Peninsula in Southeast Asia. It is bordered by China to the north, Laos to the northwest, Cambodia to the southwest, and the South China Sea –...

 and Laos
Laos
Laos Lao: ສາທາລະນະລັດ ປະຊາທິປະໄຕ ປະຊາຊົນລາວ Sathalanalat Paxathipatai Paxaxon Lao, officially the Lao People's Democratic Republic, is a landlocked country in Southeast Asia, bordered by Burma and China to the northwest, Vietnam to the east, Cambodia to the south and Thailand to the west...

 is tested to determine if it is a subspecies as well. This research is considered vital as there are less than 1300 wild Asian elephants remaining in Laos
Laos
Laos Lao: ສາທາລະນະລັດ ປະຊາທິປະໄຕ ປະຊາຊົນລາວ Sathalanalat Paxathipatai Paxaxon Lao, officially the Lao People's Democratic Republic, is a landlocked country in Southeast Asia, bordered by Burma and China to the northwest, Vietnam to the east, Cambodia to the south and Thailand to the west...

.
In addition, two extinct subspecies are considered to have existed:
  • The Chinese Elephant
    Chinese elephant
    The Chinese Elephant or the Pink-tusked Elephant is an extinct subspecies of Asian Elephants that once lived in Central and Southern China before the 14th century BC...

     is sometimes separated as E. m. rubridens (pink-tusked elephant); it disappeared after the 14th century BC.

  • The Syrian Elephant
    Syrian Elephant
    The Syrian elephant is a proposed name for the westernmost population of the Asian Elephant which became extinct in ancient times...

     (E. m. asurus), the westernmost and the largest subspecies of the Asian elephant, became extinct around 100 BC. This population, along with the Indian elephant, was considered the best war elephant
    War elephant
    A war elephant was an elephant trained and guided by humans for combat. Their main use was to charge the enemy, trampling them and breaking their ranks. A division of war elephants is known as elephantry....

     in antiquity, and was found superior to the smallish North African Elephant
    North African Elephant
    The North African Elephant was a possible subspecies of the African Bush Elephant , or possibly a separate elephant species, that existed in North Africa until becoming extinct in Ancient Roman times. These were the famous war elephants used by Carthage in the Punic Wars, their conflict with the...

     (Loxodonta africana pharaoensis) used by the armies of Carthage
    Carthage
    Carthage , implying it was a 'new Tyre') is a major urban centre that has existed for nearly 3,000 years on the Gulf of Tunis, developing from a Phoenician colony of the 1st millennium BC...

    .

Threats

Besides habitat loss and poaching, development such as border fencing along the India-Bangladesh border has become a major impediment to the free movement of elephants.

In culture

The elephant plays an important part in the culture of the subcontinent and beyond, featuring prominently in Jataka
Jataka
The Jātakas refer to a voluminous body of literature native to India concerning the previous births of the Buddha....

 tales and the Panchatantra
Panchatantra
The Panchatantra is an ancient Indian inter-related collection of animal fables in verse and prose, in a frame story format. The original Sanskrit work, which some scholars believe was composed in the 3rd century BCE, is attributed to Vishnu Sharma...

. It plays a major role in Hinduism
Hinduism
Hinduism is the predominant and indigenous religious tradition of the Indian Subcontinent. Hinduism is known to its followers as , amongst many other expressions...

: the god Ganesha
Ganesha
Ganesha , also spelled Ganesa or Ganesh, also known as Ganapati , Vinayaka , and Pillaiyar , is one of the deities best-known and most widely worshipped in the Hindu pantheon. His image is found throughout India and Nepal. Hindu sects worship him regardless of affiliations...

's head is that of an elephant, and the "blessings" of a temple elephant are highly valued. Elephants have been used in processions in Kerala
Kerala
or Keralam is an Indian state located on the Malabar coast of south-west India. It was created on 1 November 1956 by the States Reorganisation Act by combining various Malayalam speaking regions....

 where the animals are adorned with festive outfits.

Further reading

  • Gilchrist, W. (1851) A Practical Treatise on the Treatment of the Diseases of the Elephant, Camel & Horned Cattle: with instructions for improving their efficiency; also, a description of the medicines used in the treatment of their diseases; and a general outline of their anatomy. Calcutta: Military Orphan Press

External links

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.
 
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