This Wildlife Wednesday, learn about the Asian elephant, and how it compares to its African counterpart.
Known as the smaller elephant in comparison to its African cousin, the Asian elephant is equally intelligent and social.
Habitat: select forested regions in Asia, including India, Sri Lanka, and Thailand
Asian elephant trivia
- It’s often said that the African elephant’s ears look like the continent of Africa. However, along with its smaller size, the Asian elephant can be identified by its smaller ears, which are rounded. Just like the African elephant, Asian elephants’ ears help keep them cool in the hot sun.
- There are several subspecies of Asian elephants, including the Sumatran elephant and the Indian elephant.
- Asian elephants can live very long—up to 60 years in the wild.
- Elephants’ trunks serve many purposes, including grabbing things, trumpeting, and sucking up water to spray all over themselves (another way to keep cool). But contrary to popular belief, the trunk is really just a long nose, so rather than drinking water from their trucks, elephants bring water into their trunks, which they then transfer to their mouths.
- Just because elephants are herbivores doesn’t mean they’re dainty eaters. The Asian elephant can eat up to 300 pounds of plants such as roots, grasses, fruit, and bark in a single day. However, it’s not that surprising, when you realize just how big these animals are—they can weigh up to 5.5 tons!
- Asian elephants are very social, living in groups of up to 30 elephants led by a senior female. They communicate in sounds such as trumpets and purrs.
- Recently, one Asian elephant living in a zoo became famous for imitating human speech, saying what sounds to be the Korean words for “hello,” “sit down,” “lie down,” “no,” and “good.” Scientists say he might have done this out of loneliness.
Why they’re threatened and how you can help
The Asian elephant is endangered. Although hunting elephants for their tusks is illegal, it still occurs. Other threats include the capture of wild animals illegally for domesticated use, and habitat loss due to the increasing human population as well as agricultural use.
We can help the Asian elephant population by supporting environmental and wildlife organizations, and through our purchasing habits. To begin, learn the issues behind palm oil and paper products manufacturing, and choose your products wisely.