Species Elephas maximus
Asian Elephant Basics!
The Asian elephant (Elephas maximus) may be found throughout Asia in both forest and grassland settings. It is Asia’s biggest land mammal. It is based in 13 countries throughout South and Southeast Asia. It is a little elephant in comparison to the African elephant.
Asian Elephant Characteristics
Except in locations where depigmentation has resulted in lighter skin patches, elephants possess grey skin. The ears, trunk, and head are the most prevalent sites for lighter skin patches. The majority of an elephant’s skin is thick, except for the ears, which comprise paper-thin skin. The width of the skin varies; for example, the skin of an elephant’s back may be up to one inch (2.54 cm) thick!
Because of its abundant nerve supply, the Asian elephant’s skin is very delicate. On hot days, the elephants would cover themselves in mud, sand, and dirt to shield their skin from the sun’s harmful rays and a range of bugs.
Elephants may also cool themselves by flapping their ears. Elephants have enormous ears with a lot of blood vessels that are covered by thin skin. Waggling their ears assists them in cooling down because heat is radiated away from the skin’s surface through blood vessels near the surface.
The skeleton of an elephant is designed to sustain its massive size while also providing movement and strength. The bones of an elephant, unlike those of other animals, are thick and pierced, with no thin hole in the centre. The thick, perforated bones are stronger than the bones of other animals and can sustain a higher strain.
Their bone structure is likewise distinct from that of other mammals. Rather than possessing angled legs, they have stacked their legs under their bodies, providing extra support for their huge bulk. Legs in a vertical position may support a significant amount of weight and enable them to stand for an extended period of time without exerting excessive energy.
The Asian elephant differs from its African counterpart in many ways. Looking at their ears is the best way to tell them apart. Elephants in Asia have spherical ears, but elephants in Africa have ears that resemble the shape of the continent. The ears and skull of an Asian elephant are likewise substantially smaller than those of an African elephant.
Asian elephants possess two domes separated by an incision. African elephants possess a spherical head containing a single dome. Another distinction is that African elephants have tusks on both males and females, but Asian elephants only have tusks on select males.
Asian Elephant Habitat and Feeding
Herbivores, Asian elephants may eat for up to three-quarters of the day. They subsist mostly on grasses, although they also consume a significant number of tiny plants and tree trunks. Bananas, rice, and sugarcane are just a few of their favourite meals. While these elephants have developed a preference for particular foods, they have evolved to consume a broad range of flora depending on their environment. Due to the fact that Asian elephants need freshwater at least once per day, they are typically seen near sources of freshwater.
These elephants form herds and are quite friendly. Six to seven related females form these herds, which are led by the matriarch, Who is the eldest female in the group. For a brief period, small groups may unite to create bigger herds. Elephant herd numbers in Asia are much lower than elephant herd sizes in Africa. Male elephants live in isolation or small bachelor groups. Female elephants, on the other hand, establish herds comprised entirely of female elephants with calves.
Asian Elephant Reproduction
Between the ages of 8 and 13, Asian elephants attain sexual maturity. While females frequently see their first calf during their adolescent years, men normally don’t have children till a far later stage of life. According to behavioural research, men are more prone to mate in their 30s when they reach a size and strength sufficient to fight with other guys.
Pregnancy in a female lasts for a period between 21.5 and 22 months, making it the lengthiest gestation period of any mammal. Typically, these elephants have a single calf, although two might be born on rare occasions. A calf’s weight ranges from 150 to 350 pounds (68 to 158 kilograms), and it can stand up soon after birth.
The calves are breastfed by their mothers until they are around 6 months old, at which point they begin to eat plants. For the first several years, they also ingest their mother’s faeces! The excrement is nutrient-dense and includes microorganisms that aid in the digestion of cellulose by elephants.
Depending on the circumstances, every three to eight years, females will give birth to a calf. Until a new calf is born, a calf may continue to nurse its mother. If the calf is a male, and it achieves sexual maturity, it will leave the herd. Females spend their whole lives with their families.
Asian Elephant Threats
Habitat decline and human conflict are the two most serious risks to these elephants. The elephant’s habitat is diminishing and getting fragmented as human populations increase. This may result in habitat overlap between humans and elephants, which can lead to conflict. Elephants often invade human towns, taking food and demolishing houses, resulting in human fatalities in certain cases. People often kill elephants in retaliation for these attacks. In Asia, these collisions have become the main cause of elephant deaths.
Elephants are often kidnapped in the jungle and sold, with a considerable number of them ending up in Thailand, where they are exploited in tourism. To conserve their natural herds, India, Vietnam, and Myanmar have all outlawed elephant capture. For example, elephants are still taken each year in Myanmar for use in the wood business.
Fun Facts about the Asian Elephant
Asian elephants have been the continent’s biggest terrestrial mammals! These sociable colossi are well known for their boots, which serve as a very helpful utility. Elephants have acquired a number of unique biological modifications that enable them to flourish in their native habitats. Let’s look at a few of them in more detail.
A Muscular Nose
The trunk of an elephant is its most diverse instrument, capable of breathing, touching, sniffing, grasping, and creating sound! The trunk is made up primarily of muscles and has no bones! It is formed by the union of the nose and the upper lip. Cartilage is found only at the bottom of the trunk, where it divides the nostrils. The trunk of an elephant contains up to 40,000 muscles! When you consider that the human body has 639 muscles, you can see that these organs are rather muscular!
The trunk is also quite strong and capable of lifting big items. The trunk is so powerful that it can raise up to 770 pounds! Because the Asian elephant’s trunk only has one finger, to move objects it must enclose its trunk around them. The African elephant’s trunk, on the other hand, has two fingers that may squeeze together to hold objects.
Elephants use their trunks to detect odours as well. The elephant’s sense of smell is said to be four times greater than that of a bloodhound, due to the high density of receptors inside its nasal cavity. Their sense of smell is so acute that they are said to be able to detect water from many kilometres away.
Aside from sniffing and moving items, an elephant’s trunk has a variety of other purposes. Elephants use their trunks to communicate with one another by making sounds and greeting one another. They may be utilised to guide newborn elephants, calm herd members, and obtain information about nearby elephants via their fragrance.
An elephant’s trunk may also be used as a mask, extending over them while they walk into deep water, enabling them to cross massive rivers and bodies of water.
Six Sets of Teeth
At birth, six sets of teeth are seen in Asian elephants. The first set of teeth is quite small, and every subsequent set becomes larger and more complicated, as well as surviving longer than the previous set. Throughout its life, an elephant’s cranium develops to accommodate larger teeth. The teeth of an elephant deteriorate as it grows older.
The old teeth are shifted forward as well as shatter, drop out of the mouth, or are ingested to make room for the new teeth. The age of an elephant may be estimated by looking at its teeth. The number of surviving pairs of teeth in an elephant’s mouth, as well as how worn they are, may indicate the length of time it has been alive.
Tusks are a kind of altered tooth that grows during an elephant’s life. Tusks will only be found on a few male Asian elephants. Tusks are the upper incisors of an elephant and are formed of ivory, which is comparable to bone. Calcium and phosphate make up the majority of the ivory. Only two-thirds of the tusk is visible; the other third is housed in an elephant’s skull socket.
Walking on Tiptoes
Elephants walk on tiptoes, with the bulk of their weight supported by a pad beneath their heel and the tips of their toes. This thick, fibrous pad functions as a shock absorber, cushioning each stride and safeguarding the bones in their legs and toes from harm. The elephant’s feet extend out as it travels, helping to support the big animal’s weight. Because of the way these elephants walk, they don’t create much noise while they move.