Asian elephant Facts

ASIAN ELEPHANTS–elephas maximus–differ from the African elephant in appearance, size and habitat. The Asian elephant has smaller ears, smaller tusks. The Asian male elephant has large visible tusks. The females have small tusks called tushes which are generally not visible. Asian elephants have two humps on the forehead and an arched back. Asian elephants have smoother skin than their African relatives. The Asian elephant has only one “finger” on the end of its trunk as compared with two “fingers” that the African elephant has on the end of its trunk.

AS FOR SIZE, the Asian elephant is smaller. Males stand 9 to 10 1/2 feet tall and weigh about 8000 pounds while females are shorter and weigh about 6,000 pounds.

THE HOME OF THE ASIAN ELEPHANT is in the forests and jungles of India, Sri Lanka, China, Indonesia, and southeast Asia. Estimates vary, but, there are approximately 29,000 to 50,000 Asian elephants still in the wild. Asian elephants are threatened more by destruction and fragmentation of their habitat rather than poaching (killing elephants for tusks) as is the African elephant. Almost 20% of the world’s population lives in or near the range of Asian elephants. Elephant migratory routes have been disrupted by highways and urban development.

ASIAN ELEPHANTS often cannot find enough food in small forests for survival. Because of the overpopulation problems in places like India, elephants’ feeding grounds have been converted to crop land to feed the ever-growing human population. Conflicts occur when the elephants look for the nearest source of food which is likely to be in the fields of the local farmers.

HUMANS USE ELEPHANTS AS WORK ANIMALS in Asia. Elephants log forests, transport heavy loads and carry tourists. Elephants can walk in areas where machinery can’t navigate. Approximately 15,000 Asian elephants are held in captivity as work animals. Elephants seem be be held in a bit more of esteem in Asia than in Africa. They are important in Asian folklore and religion. They are believed to be cousins of the clouds and able to cause lightening.


  • Phylum: CHORDATA
  • Class: MAMMALIA
      of Asian Elephants

    • Largest of all land creatures.
    • A bull can stand 9 ft. (2.7 m) in height & weigh between 3-5 tons (7,000 – 12,000 lbs or 3,200 – 4,500 kg).
    • Cows can stand 7.5 ft. (2.3 m) in height & weigh between 2.3-4.5 tons (5,000 – 10,000 lbs or 2,300 – 4,500 kg).
    • Calves–baby elephants stand at around 3 ft. (0.9m) & weigh 200 lbs. (90kg).
    • Despite it’s huge size the elephant has an extraordinary sense of balance and extremely high tactile sense.
    • The brain of the elephant weighs about 11 lbs. or 5 kg (4 times the weight of a human).
    • Has the largest ears of any creature.
    • Skin is around 2.5 cm thick.
      Life Cycle of Asian Elephants

    • The life cycle of the elephant is remarkably similar to that of an average human being.Elephants:
    • suckle using the mouth, not trunk.
    • are weaned on milk between two – four years. Although the elephant will naturally be attracted to it’s mother, other cows in the herd often take turns looking after the baby.
    • look after the orphaned baby if the mother dies.
    • cows can bear young at age 16+.
    • begin work at 16+.
    • are fully grown at 20 years old.
    • are in their working prime between 20-40.
    • start going bald around 30 years.
    • begin to slow down at 40.
    • live to about 60 – 70 years.
    • are on light duties only when they reach 50.
    • will be able to tell if a corpse is from the same herd. If so then the whole herd will avoid that area, apparently out of respect. This is so even when the bones are buried. The reason for this phenomena may be attributed to their acute sense of smell and other unknown factors.
      Diet of Asian elephant Asian Elephants

    • are purely vegetarian, herbivore.
    • eat around 200-300 Kg of fodder per day.
    • drink about 150 litres of water.
    • eat foods which include: bananas, bamboo, berries, mangoes, coconuts, corn, jungle shrubs, palm fruits, sugar cane, wood apples Feronia elephantorum and wild rice. In western Zoos they are often fed bread and have developed a taste for this type of food.
      The popular myth that elephants love buns probably stems from this peculiarity.
    • shows a distinct liking for salt. This is good because salt is essential.
    • has a quite inefficient digestion system and only around 50% of the fodder eaten is
    • gets stomach aches from living in cold climates.
    • will even peel fruit before eating. The revered holy Thai white elephant is very particular about eating and will not consume any food that has fallen on the ground. It will not eat with the rest of the herd.
      Asian Elephants Tusks/Teeth

    • Males have larger tusks up to 1.5 – 1.8m in length whilst the females do not have tusks.
    • Milk tusks are fully grown at just 2 inches long and are shed before the calf reaches it’s second birthday. Permanent tusks then begin to grow.
    • Tusks are, in fact teeth (incisors) and are classified as ivory. The only other creature to have ivory teeth is the walrus.
    • The purpose of the tusk is to dig for food, clear debris, and to fight. The Asian elephant is used as a work animal. As such, it uses its tusks to carry heavy loads of up to 1 ton such as timber.
    • Molars (grinding teeth) are at least 1 ft. long (30 cm) and weigh about 8.8 lbs. (4 kg). The animal has only four of these teeth at any one time. New molars form in the back of the mouth and push the old ones forward and out completely. An elephant usually grows six sets
      of these molars in a life-time. The final set grows when it is about 40 years of age. When the last set decays, around 60 – 70 years, the elephant finds it hard to eat and subsequently a great many are likely to die of starvation.
    • Tusks never stop growing.
    Reproduction of Asian Elephants Males are highly individualistic and only join the herd for mating seasons. Their penis is retractable. There is no scrotum and the testicles are housed internally. Males duel
    each other with the winner claiming steed rights for the whole herd. Deaths sometimes occur from wounds inflicted in these duels.The female runs away coyly for a short while, as part of a ritual, before submitting to her victorious mate. The bull then mounts the female from behind gripping her body with his fore feet upon her pelvis and assumes a standing posture. Copulation takes around 20 seconds with very little movement or noise. Mating continues promiscuously–with other herd males for two days after which the most powerful bull drives off the others. He then remains with the cow for around three weeks.

    The female, when pregnant, carries the calf for 22 months. When parturition (birth) occurs other herd cows form a circle around the pregnant cow. She assumes a squatting position while giving birth. The birth takes around 2 hours.

    In regions where large carnivores, such as big cats, prey upon newly born animals, the mother forms alliances with other herd members. Mother and associated protectors then blow dust over the new-born calf with their trunks in order to dry it.

    Just two hours after birth the calf can stand up and begins to suckle the mother.

    Asian Elephants Trunk Arguably the most versatile of all animal organs. The trunk can be used for such diverse tasks as shifting a 600 kg log to picking up a coin. It is a boneless mass of flesh and up to 100,000 muscles that can bend easily. It is 2 metres long and weighs around 140 kg. The trunk has a small finger like lip at the end which can distinguish between size, shape, texture, hot and cold.The animal uses its trunk to feed and drink by bringing food and water to the mouth, breathe, make noises, caress it’s young
    and sometimes even fight. Asian elephants have an acute deftness of balance achieved by high tactile sense. The trunk, an incredibly versatile organ, contributes greatly to this abilityWhen totally submerged in water the trunk can also be used as a snorkel. Trunks can hold six litres of water and are often used as a flexible shower hose pipe. It is a superb organ of smell, and can be directed easily toward the source.

    By beating the ground violently with the trunk the elephant signals its anger or displeasure. When an elephant is on unsteady or unfamiliar ground it will use the outside of the trunk to beat the earth, determining if the ground is firm enough to walk on. Once safety is assured, the front foot is moved forward onto the tested area. The rear foot follows and is carefully placed in exactly the same footprint

    Name for the Asian elephant in other languagesFinnish – Elefatti, Norsu

    French – Eléphant d’Asie, Eléphant d’Inde

    Spanish – Elefante asiático


    Asian elephants live in many different habitats including open grasslands, marshes, savannas and forests.


    Asian elephants live in fragmented forests in India, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Burma, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos (Lao People’s Democratic Republic), Vietnam, China (extinct in wild), Malaysia, Indonesia, and Borneo, Myanmar, Brunei Darussalam.


    Asian elephants have poor vision. They are capable of seeing clearly only at very short distances up to about 10 metres.


    Elephants have excellent hearing quite superior to human standards. Their large ears act as amplifiers and warn of possible dangers.


    The Asian elephant has a highly developed sense of smell thought to be superior to that of any other land mammal.

    Tongue/Taste The sense of taste is comparable to all higher animals. It can easily distinguish
    between unsuitable, suitable and favoured fodder.
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