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Elephant Asian

Bruna Barretto

Elephant Asian

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Elephant Asian



Matriarchal System







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A Species that needs space


Physical Description


Population and Distribution



Current Population







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Habitat Tropical and Subtropical Moist Broadleaf Forests, Tropical and Subtropical Dry Broadleaf Forests

Population 25,600 to 32,750 individuals

Height and Length Body length - ranges from 550 to 640 cm; Shoulder height from 250 to 300 cm

Scientific Name Elephas maximus spp

Status Endangered (IUCN A2c); CITES: Appendix I

Skin colour Dark grey to brown, with patches of pink on the forehead, the ears, the base of the trunk and chest

Weight Upto 5,000 kg

Asian Elephant


Background Although many thousands of domesticated Asian elephants are found in Southeast Asia, this magnificent animal is threatened by extinction in the wild: in the face of rapidly growing human populations, the Asian elephant’s habitat is shrinking fast. Wild elephant populations are mostly small, isolated, and unable to join as ancient migratory routes are cut off by human settlements. Confrontations between elephants and people often lead to deaths on both sides, and poaching for ivory, meat and hides is still a widespread problem.

A species that needs space Through the Asian Rhinos and Elephants Action Strategy (AREAS), WWF is working throughout the Asian elephant range to conserve the remaining populations and their habitats. And because these large animals need a lot of space to survive, WWF considers the Asian elephant a ‘flagship’ species, whose conservation would help maintain biological diversity and ecological integrity over extensive areas.

Physical Description The Asian elephant is the largest terrestrial mammal in Asia. It is smaller than the African elephant (Loxodonta africana), with relatively smaller ears, 8

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and the head (not the shoulder) is the highest part of the body. Asian elephants have a single “finger� on the upper lip of the trunk, while African elephants have a second on the lower tip. Only some male Asian elephants carry tusks; females have small tushes, which seldom show. But a significant number of adult males are tuskless, and the percentage of males carrying ivory varies by region (possibly reflecting the intensity of past ivory hunting), from only about 5% in Sri Lanka to 90% in south India. Asian elephants are almost hairless, with the few sparse ones being long, stiff, and bristly. Asian elephants keep their ears in constant motion in order to radiate the heat they generate and therefore cool themselves. The species are reported to have well developed hearing, vision, and olfaction, and are also fine swimmers.

Size The total body length of Asian elephants ranges from 550 to 640 cm, and shoulder height from 250 to 300 cm. Males can weigh up to 5,000 kg.

Colour The skin colour of Asian elephants is dark grey to brown, with patches of pink on the forehead, the ears, the base of the trunk and chest.

Asian Elephant


Habitat Major habitat type Tropical and Subtropical Moist Broadleaf Forests, Tropical and Subtropical Dry Broadleaf Forests

Biogeographic realm Indo-Malayan

Range States India, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, China, Malaysia (Peninsular and Borneo), Indonesia (Borneo and Sumatra)

Ecological Region Southwestern Ghats Moist Forests, Sri Lankan Moist Forests, Northern Indochina Subtropical Moist Forests, Annamite Range Moist Forests, Sumatran Islands Lowland and Montane Forests, Kayah-Karen/ Tenasserim Moist Forests, Peninsular Malaysian Lowland and Montane Forests, Borneo Lowland and Montane Forests, Eastern Deccan Plateau Moist Forests, Naga-Manupuri-Chin Hills Moist Forests, Cardamom Mountains Moist Forests, Indochina Dry Forests, Chhota-Nagpur Dry Forests, Eastern Himalayan Broadleaf and Conifer Forests, Terai-Duar Savannas and Grasslands, Mekong River, Western Ghats Rivers and Streams, Salween River, Sundaland Rivers and Swamps.


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Why is this species important? Sacred but exploited, the Asian elephant has been worshipped for centuries and today is still used for ceremonial and religious purposes. Not only is it revered for its role within Asian culture and religion, it is also a key biological species in the tropical forests of Asia. Domesticated elephants are found throughout South and Southeast Asia and are trained as working animals. Their ability to work in rugged country makes them valuable in forestry operations, while in India most Forest Department-owned elephants are now used for patrolling and anti-poaching work, especially during monsoon season.

Introducing the ‘matriarchal’ system Asian elephants are found in scrub forest and they favour areas with grass, low woody plants and trees.

Social Structure Asian elephants are extremely sociable, forming groups of 6 to 7 related females that are led by the oldest female, the ‘matriarch’. Like African elephants, these groups occasionally join others to form herds, although these associations are relatively transient. Asian Elephant

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Life Cycle Young Asian elephants are reported to stand soon after birth and can follow their mother in her daily routine after a few days. After several months, the calf begins to eat grass and foliage although it may nurse occasionally for about 18 months. It stays under supervision of its mother for several years, but begins making independent movements at 4 years. By 7-8 years of age, the young may form subgroups or associate briefly with older bulls. Growth slows in females at 10-12 years, in males at 15 years, and full size is attained at about 17 years. Both sexes may become sexually mature at as early as 9 years, but males usually do not reach sexual activity until 14-15 years, and even then they are not capable of the social dominance that usually is necessary for successful reproductive activity. There have been some reports of elephants living over 100 years.

Breeding When the habitat conditions are favourable, female elephants may give birth to a calf every 2.5-4 years, otherwise every 5-8 years. Asian elephants give birth to one calf weighing 50-150 kg.

Diet More than two thirds of the day may be spent feeding on grasses, but large amounts of tree bark, roots, leaves and small stems are also eaten. Cultivated crops such as bananas, rice and sugarcane are favoured foods. Because they need to drink at least once a day, the species are always close to a source of fresh water. 12

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Usually, elephants do not feed for more than a few days in a given location. Adults eat approximately 150 kg net weight per day.

Population and distribution Previous Population and Distribution The Asian elephant, whose ancestors originated in Africa some 55 million years ago and ranged from modern Iraq and Syria to the Yellow River in China, is now found only from India to Vietnam, with a tiny besieged population in the extreme southwest of China’s Yunnan Province. A pygmy species of Elephas, E. falconeri, occurred on certain Mediterranean and Aegean islands in the late Pleistocene and early recent epochs. More than 100,000 Asian elephants may have existed at the start of the twentieth century.

Asian Elephant

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Current Population and Distribution Killed for their ivory, meat, and bone, and for their live young, Asia’s last remaining elephants continue to decline in number in the face of poaching and habitat destruction. As recently as 1995, only 25,600 to 32,750 Asian elephants were thought to remain in the wild. Since then, several populations have dwindled still further, and scientists fear that current populations may have fallen well

below 1995 estimates. About a further 16,000 elephants are held in captivity throughout Southeast Asia while there are thought to be approximately 6,000 domesticated elephants in Myanmar alone.

Threats Conflict, loss of land and hunting The continually growing human population of tropical Asia has encroached upon the elephant’s dense but dwindling forest habitat. About 20% of the world’s human population lives in or near the present range of the Asian elephant. Fierce competition for living space has resulted in human suffering, a dramatic loss of forest cover, and reduced Asian elephant numbers to around 25,600 to 32,750 animals in the wild. Asian elephant populations are highly fragmented, with fewer than 10 populations comprising more than 1,000 individuals in a contiguous area, greatly decreasing their chances for survival. Most of the National Parks and reserves where elephants occur are too small to accommodate viable elephant populations. The conversion of forested areas to agricultural use also leads to serious elephant-human conflicts. In India, up to 300 people are killed by elephants each year.

Habitat loss and fragmentation In the face of rapidly growing human populations, the Asian elephants’ habitat is shrinking fast and wild elephant populations are mostly small, isolated, and unable to mingle as ancient migratory routes are cut off by human settlements. Asian Elephant

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Large development projects (such as dams, roads, mines and industrial complexes), plantations and spreading human settlements have fragmented what was once contiguous elephant habitat into small fragments. A substantial proportion of the world’s population live in or near the present range of the Asian elephant, which leads to elephant-human conflict. Incidents of elephants raiding crops and villages are on the rise. This causes losses to human property and, sometimes, human lives. Retaliation by villagers often results in killings of these elephants. Experts already consider such confrontations to be the leading cause of elephant deaths in Asia. In some countries, the government provides compensation for crop damage or deaths caused by elephants, but there is still often strong political pressure on wildlife authorities to eliminate elephants near populated regions. As human populations increase, elephant-human conflicts are likely to rise. Experts already consider such confrontations to be the leading cause of elephant deaths in Asia.

Illegal hunting and trade In Asian elephants, only males carry tusks and therefore poaching is aimed exclusively at males. Selective removal of tuskers for their ivory may lead to an increase in the proportion of tuskless males in the population. Poaching of Asian elephants for ivory and meat remains a serious problem in many countries, especially in southern India (where 90% of the bulls are tuskers) and in north-east India where some people eat elephant meat. From 1995 to 1996, poaching of Asian elephants for hide, meat and ivory increased sharply. The illegal trade in live elephants, ivory and hides across the Thai-Myanmar border has also become a serious conservation problem. 16

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Editora Senac Rio tel: (021) 2510-7100 fax: (021) 2510-7100 Esta revista foi composta em Gills Sans MT, tipologia desenhada por Eric Gill em 1926, uma fonte humanista sem-serifa.; e Sabon LT projetada por Jan Tschischold em 1966 baseada nas fontes feitaas por Claude Garamond no século XVI. Impresso em papel couché matter, pela gráfica J. Sholna, em novembro 2009.

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