Towering tusks and trunks – The Asian Elephant!

Long magnificent trunks, beautiful ivory tusks, and those big ol’ flappy ears! That’s right Defenders, our newest Animal of the Week is none other than the Asian Elephant! Elephants are known as a “keystone species”, meaning they have a very large effect on their environment, with their impact changing the types of species and their numbers that live in the same habitat. There are 3 living species in the elephant family, and the Asian Elephant is the only one that does not live in Africa. Known to “never forget”, Elephants are giant majestic creatures with a fairly high level of intelligence, and show many different emotions and behaviors from compassion to grief and more.

How many Asian Elephants are left in the world?

The Asian Elephant is classified as endangered, while the two African Elephants are vulnerable, meaning the Asian Elephant has the lowest population of the three. While African Elephant populations are in the hundreds of thousands, estimated between 400,000 – 700,000, Asian Elephants are only about one tenth of that, with numbers estimated at 30,000 – 40,000 individuals.

Where are Asian Elephants found?

Holding the record of the largest living land animal in Asia, the Asian Elephant is found in the southeast of the continent, with a range that covers India and Nepal, to Sri Lanka and Borneo. Grasslands and forests tend to be their favorite habitats, and they are considered forest animals. This helps with the fact that Elephants are considered “megaherbivores” and can consume more than 300 pounds of plant matter every day.

What are the main threats to Elephants?

Human-elephant conflict is the biggest threat to the survival of the Asian Elephants, and there are a few different ways these animals are harmed by this. Habitat loss and destruction makes a big impact, with logging and techniques like “slash and burn agriculture” decreasing the amount of native land the elephants have, and putting them against humans in competition for space. Poaching is the other biggest threat, as they are hunted for a variety of products including meat and leather, and of course the most notable of all, ivory.

What animals eat Elephants?

Due to their massive size, many people wonder if elephants naturally have any predators aside from humans, and if any animal normally has elephant as part of its diet. Well the truth is Defenders, most animals can’t even think of battling an elephant and coming out the winner! Because the Asian Elephant lives in Asia, it does not have to deal with lions or cheetahs like the African Elephant, however Tigers are the biggest cat and predator they might come across. Tigers like to hunt alone though, so the chance of one taking out an elephant is extremely slim. Sometimes newborn and smaller elephants that get lost or behind the pack might be eaten by those big cats, but otherwise the size and strength of an elephant is enough to keep nearby predators off their backs and focused on smaller prey.

Are Elephants smart?

As stated at the beginning of this blog, elephants definitely have a high level of intelligence, as they have a large and evolved neocortex, something that is shared with humans and apes, and some dolphins. It has been reported that Elephants will find safer ground during natural disasters, and they are often placed in the same category with great apes when it comes to making tools and using them in daily life. Some even believe that Asian Elephants are extremely intelligent and self aware, although this has been contested and argued from both sides.

baby asian elephant playing in pool by damselstock dbgmll