Asian elephants - Types and characteristics

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At AnimalWised we want to introduce you to Elephas maximus, scientific name of Asian elephant, the largest mammal on the Asian continent. They are animals that attract human beings, which has had dire consequences for the species. They belong to the order Proboscidea, family Elephantidae and the genus Elephas.

Regarding the classification of subspecies, there are dissimilar positions, however, some authors recognize the existence of three, which are: Indian elephant, Sri Lankan elephant and Sumatran elephant. In the mentioned designations, the scientists mainly used the differences in the color of the skin and the size of their bodies. if you want to know more about the Asian elephants, their types and characteristics, continue reading this interesting article.

You may also be interested in: Types of elephants and their characteristics Index
  1. Where does the Asian elephant live?
  2. Characteristics of the Asian elephant
  3. Types of Asian elephants
  4. What do Asian elephants eat?
  5. Reproduction of the Asian elephant
  6. Conservation status of the Asian elephant

Where does the Asian elephant live?

This species is native to Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Lao People's Democratic Republic, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Vietnam.

The Asian elephant originally had a wide range of distribution, from western Asia, through the Iranian coast to India, also towards Southeast Asia and towards China. Nevertheless, has become extinct in many areas in which it originally inhabited, concentrating on isolated populations in 13 states of the total area of ​​its original distribution. Some wild populations still exist on Indian islands.

With a wide range of distribution, the Asian elephant is present in various types of habitat, mainly in:

  • Evergreen tropical forests.
  • Semi-evergreen tropical forests.
  • Humid deciduous tropical forests.
  • Dry thorn and dry tropical forests
  • Grasslands.
  • Cultivated scrub.

It is usually seen different heights, from sea level to 3,000 meters above sea level.

The Asian elephant requires for its survival the constant presence of water in its habitat, which it not only uses for drinking, but also for bathing and wallowing.

Its distribution areas are quite wide due to its ability to move, However, the areas they decide to inhabit will depend on the one hand on the availability of food and water, and on the other on the transformations that the ecosystem undergoes due to human disturbances..

Characteristics of the Asian elephant

Asian elephants are quite long-lived and can live between 60 and 70 years. These striking animals manage to reach 2 to 3.5 meters in height and more than 6 meters in length, although they are usually smaller than the African elephant, they weigh up to 6 tons. They have a large head, and both the trunk and its tail are long, however, the ears are smaller than his African relative. As for the tusks, not all individuals of this species tend to have them, especially the females, who normally lack them, while in the males they are long and large..

Their skin is thick and quite dry, they have very little or no hair, and the color varies. between gray and brown. As for the legs, the front ones have five hoof-shaped toes, while the rear ones have four. Despite their large size and weight, they are quite agile and safe when moving, as well as being very good swimmers. A characteristic feature is the presence of a single lobe on your nose which is located at the end of the tube. This last structure is essential for feeding, drinking water, smelling, touching, making sounds, washing, laying on the ground and even fighting..

On the other hand, Asian elephants are social mammals that are used to being in herds or clans, made up mainly of females, with the presence of an older matriarch and an older male, in addition to the offspring.

Another characteristic aspect of these animals is that they tend to travel long distances in order to find food and shelter, however, tend to develop affinity for areas that you define as your home.

Types of Asian elephants

Asian elephants are classified into three subspecies, which are:

Indian elephant (Elephas maximus indicus)

The Indian elephant is the one who possesses greater number of individuals of the three subspecies. It mainly inhabits various areas of India, although it can be located in few proportions outside this country.

It is dark gray to brown in color, with the presence of light or pink spots. Its weight and size are intermediate compared to the other two subspecies. It is a very sociable animal.

Sri Lankan Elephant (Elephas maximus maximus)

The Sri Lankan elephant is that of larger size among Asians, weighing up to 6 tons. It is gray or flesh-colored with black or orange spots and almost all lack fangs.

It is found distributed throughout the dry areas of the island of Sri Lanka. According to estimates, they do not exceed six thousand individuals.

Sumatran elephant (Elephas maximus sumatranus)

The Sumatran elephant is the smallest of the Asian group. It is deeply threatened, and if urgent measures of action are not implemented, it will probably be extinguished in the next few years..

Has bigger ears than the previous ones. Plus it has a couple of extra ribs.

Borneo elephant, ¿an asian elephant?

In some cases, the Bornean elephant (Elephas maximus borneensis) is considered a fourth subspecies of the Asian elephant. However, several scientists reject this idea and include it within the subspecies Elephas maximus indicus Or the Elephas maximus sumatranus. Precise study results are expected to define this difference..

What do Asian elephants eat?

The Asian elephant is a great herbivorous mammal, and requires large amounts of food per day. In fact, they usually spend more than 14 hours a day feeding, so it reaches eat about 150 kg of weight in food. Their diet is made up of a wide variety of plants, and some studies have shown that they are capable of consuming up to more than 80 different plant species depending on the habitat and the season. Thus, they can eat a great variety of:

  • Woody plants.
  • Pasture.
  • Estate.
  • Stems.
  • Crusts.

In addition, Asian elephants play a key role in the plant distribution in the ecosystems they inhabit, because they easily disperse large amounts of seeds.

Reproduction of the Asian elephant

Males usually reach sexual maturity between 10 and 15 years, while females do it earlier. In the wild, females generally give birth between the ages of 13 and 16. They develop gestation periods of 22 months and have a single brood, that can weigh up to 100 kilos and usually breastfeed up to 5 years, although at that age they can also consume plants.

Females become pregnant in any time of the year, for which they let the males know their disposition. The gestation intervals for the female last between 4 and 5 years, however, in the presence of a high population density, this time can increase..

Elephant calves are quite vulnerable to feline attack, however, the social role of this species plays a fundamental role in the protection of newborns, so that adult females and mainly the grandmothers they tend to take care of the youngest.

Reproductive strategies of the Asian elephant

A characteristic feature of the Asian elephant is that the adult males disperse the young males when they mature sexually, although they remain within the range they have defined as home, the young males then tend to separate from the herd.

This strategy would have certain advantages for prevent reproduction between related individuals (inbreeding), which is very important for gene flow to occur. When a female is sexually mature, the males approach the herd and compete for reproduction, although it not only depends on one male winning over others, but the female accepting it as well..

Conservation status of the Asian elephant

The Asian elephant is extinct in Pakistan, while in Vietnam a population of about 100 individuals is estimated. For its part, in Sumatra and Myanmar it is seriously threatened.

For years, Asian elephants have been slaughtered in order to obtain ivory and their skins for the making amulets. In addition, it is estimated that many elephants have been poisoned or electrocuted by humans in order to remove them from spaces inhabited by people..

Currently, there are certain strategies that seek to stop the significant decline suffered by the Asian elephant populations, however, they seem not to be sufficient due to the state of danger in which they are still maintained..

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