Rosamond Gifford Zoo

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Asian Elephant

Elephas maximus

Elephants are the largest living land mammals and are both highly intelligent and highly social. Asian elephants are slightly smaller than their African cousins and are more critically endangered, with only about 30,000 remaining in the wild.

Range & Habitat

Asian elephants can be found across parts of India and Southeast Asia including Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Myanmar (Burma), Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, China, Malaysia, Borneo and Sumatra. Asian elephants prefer areas that combine grass, low woody plants and forest.

At the Zoo: Helga Beck Asian Elephant Preserve (Wildlife Trail).

Conservation Status: Endangered

Endangered due to habitat loss, poaching, and disrupted migratory routes.

Diet

In the Wild: Grasses, bamboo, roots, bark, fruits, leaves, vines, shrubs and sugar cane.

At the Zoo: Hay, grain, fruits and vegetables.

Life Span

In the Wild: about 40 years if they make it to maturity; In Human Care: average is 49 years; some have lived into their 60s and 70s.

Fun Facts about the Asian Elephant

  • Elephants can be considered right tusked or left tusked just as humans can be right or left handed. The tusk they use more often is usually shorter and more worn than the other. Asian elephants have shorter tusks than African elephants, and the females’ tusks are much smaller than the males’.
  • Elephants walk on their toes and their bone structure rests on a wedge-shaped cartilage pad that absorbs the shock of their weight and cushions each step they take.
  • Elephants have unique teeth. They have 6 sets of 4 molar-shaped teeth that emerge throughout their lifetime, and all are present in their skulls at birth. As their skull grows and their teeth wear out, new teeth replace them in a conveyor belt fashion, from below their gums to the surface. Usually only parts of each tooth are lost at one time.

Sources

Asian elephant. (2020, March 30). Retrieved May 12, 2020, from https://nationalzoo.si.edu/animals/asian-elephant

What is ivory and why does it belong on elephants? (2020). Retrieved May 12, 2020, from https://www.worldwildlife.org/stories/what-is-ivory-and-why-does-it-belong-on-elephants

IUCN Red List: Asian Elephant https://www.iucnredlist.org/species/7140/45818198#habitat-ecology

Updated February 2, 2021
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