Elephant (Asian)

Scientific Name: Elephas maximus
Irish Name: Eilifint Áiseach

Elephants are the world’s largest land mammal, with African elephants being the largest and Asian elephants like the ones at Dublin Zoo being next in line. An Asian elephant can weigh up to 5 tonnes (5,000kgs) and reach heights of 2.7metres.

Elephants have thick grey skin, a long trunk, wide flat ears and columnar legs. Male Asian elephants also have tusks.

Elephant (Asian)

Elephants are the world’s largest land mammal, with African elephants being the largest and Asian elephants like the ones at Dublin Zoo being next in line. An Asian elephant can weigh up to 5 tonnes (5,000kgs) and reach heights of 2.7metres.

Elephants have thick grey skin, a long trunk, wide flat ears and columnar legs. Male Asian elephants also have tusks.

General Information

Asian elephants are native to South East Asia where they live across several varying habitats including grasslands and different types of forests. 

Asian elephants are classified as 'endangered' on the International Union for Conservation in Nature (IUCN) due to habitat loss, human-elephant conflict over farmland and being poached for their ivory tusks. 

Dublin Zoo is part of a European breeding programme for the Asian elephant to try and protect the endangered species from extinction.

Physical Description

Elephants are the largest land mammal, African elephants being the largest followed in second place by Asian elephants. They are pachyderms, i.e. their skin is very thick. They have a long trunk, wide flat ears and columnar legs. Male Asian elephant also have tusks.

Where do they live? (Natural habitat)

Asian Elephants are native to South East Asia, and can still be found in 13 countries in that region, ranging from sea level up to 3,000 metres. They have a very varied habitat consisting of grassland, tropical evergreen forest, semi-evergreen forest, deciduous forest and dry thorn forest, and their home ranges can be in excess of 600 km².

How long do they live?

60-70 years in the wild and up to 80 years in zoos

What do they eat?

Due to their size elephants require huge quantities of food, and may spend 14-19 hours a day feeding. They feed mainly on grasses, but also on tree bark, roots and leaves and can consume up to 150kg of food per day. They are also partial to cultivated crops such as bananas, rice and sugarcane.

Closest Related Species/Sister Species

The elephant’s closest living relatives are the rock hyrax (a small furry mammal that lives in rocky landscapes across sub-Saharan Africa and along the coast of the Arabian peninsula) and sea cows (dugongs and manatees).

Group Name

Herd

Zoo location

Near side, on the Kaziranga forest trail

Animal Class

Mammalia

Animal Order

Proboscidea

Fun Facts

Poo!

Each elephant creates about one tonne of poo per week!

Heavy

Elephants are one of the last few mega-herbivores (i.e. plant-eating mammals that reach an adult body weight in excess of 1,000 kg)

Elephants Memory

Elephants are known for their incredible memory. Matriarchs will remember ancient migration routes and watering holes. This knowledge is passed down from generation to generation.

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Family Life

Female elephants live in multi-generational herds with their calves, which are led by a matriarch (the dominant female). Young males leave the group when they are 6-7 years old. Bulls sometimes form bachelor groups, but are mostly solitary, and only visit the female herds to mate with a cow.

Size male adult

Asian elephants can reach a shoulder height of up to 3m, but the average height for a male is estimated at 2.7m. They can weigh from 2,000 to 5,500 kg, with the average male weighing in at 5,400 kg.

Size female adult

Asian elephants can reach a shoulder height of up to 3m, but the average height for a female is estimated at 2.35m. They can weigh from 2,000 to 5,500 kg, with the average female weighing in at 2,700 kg.

Adult male name

Bull

Adult female name

Cow

Baby Name

Calf

Gestation period

22 months

Number of young at birth

1

Weight at birth

90 kg

Age at maturity

10 - 15 years

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Conservation

IUCN status

Endangered

Current population estimate

40,000 - 50,000, but estimates are difficult as the dense vegetation in their habitat makes counting difficult

Threats

The main threat for Asian elephants is habitat loss due to an expanding human population. This also leads to increased human-elephant conflicts when elephants devastate harvests. Poaching for ivory, meat and leather is also a problem.

What is Dublin Zoo doing?

Dublin Zoo supports the Asian Nature Conservation Foundation (ANCF), which is dedicated to maintaining biological diversity in India. Dublin Zoo also participates in the European Endangered Species Breeding Programme (EEP) for Asian Elephants.

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FAQs

  • Why are asian elephants endangered?

    The main threat for Asian elephants is habitat loss due to an expanding human population. This also leads to increased human-elephant conflicts when elephants devastate harvests. Poaching for ivory, meat and leather is also a problem.

  • Where do asian elephants live?

    Asian Elephants are native to South East Asia, and can still be found in 13 countries in that region, ranging from sea level up to 3,000 metres. They have a very varied habitat consisting of grassland, tropical evergreen forest, semi-evergreen forest, deciduous forest and dry thorn forest, and their home ranges can be in excess of 600 km².

  • What do asian elephants eat?

    Due to their size elephants require huge quantities of food, and may spend 14-19 hours a day feeding. They feed mainly on grasses, but also on tree bark, roots and leaves. They are also partial to cultivated crops such as bananas, rice and sugarcane.

  • Do asian elephants have tusks?

    Only male Asian elephants have tusks, while both male and female African elephants have tusks.

  • How many asian elephants are left?

    It is estimated that ca. 40,000 – 50,000 Asian elephants are left in the wild, but estimates are difficult as the dense vegetation in their habitat makes counting difficult.

  • How long do asian elephants live?

    60-70 years in the wild and up to 80 years in zoos.

  • How much does an asian elephant weigh?

    Asian elephants can weigh from 2,000 to 5,500 kg, with the average male weighing in at 5,400 kg, and the average female at 2,700 kg.

  • How many tusks does an asian female elephant have?

    Female  Asian elephants don’t have tusks at all.

  • What color is the asian elephant?

    An elephant’s skin colour is usually grey, but can turn brownish after they enjoyed a mud wallow. Asian elephants also sometimes have some pinkish depigmented patches on their faces.

  • Why is the asian elephant important?

    Given their requirements for large areas, elephants are regarded as an “umbrella species” because their conservation will also protect a large number of other species occupying the same area

  • Do african and asian elephants get along?

    Encounters between African and Asian elephants are unusual, seeing that they live on different continents, and zoos would usually also only have either one or the other subspecies. Mixing them is also not recommended due to the fact that both subspecies are carriers of a different strain of the EEHV virus, which does not affect their own subspecies, but when transferred from the African to the Asian elephant or vice versa it can cause internal bleeding in calves. But in a hypothetical meeting, it presumably would be a similar reaction to meeting another unknown individual elephant of the same subspecies. Elephants have very distinct personalities, and the reaction would depend on the character of each individual, with a dominant animal most likely asserting their dominance.

  • How big are asian elephants?

    Asian elephants can reach a shoulder height of up to 3m. The average height for a male is ca. 2.7m and for a female it is ca. 2.35m.

  • How do asian elephants reproduce?

    The oestrus cycle of a female elephant is 12-18 weeks long, but during this cycle there is only a short period of 2-10 days when she can conceive. Male elephants also experience periods of increased hormone levels called “musth” during which they become particularly agressive and visit family groups to seek out females that are ready to conceive. Elephant cows prefer mating with bulls in musth to non-musth bulls. Elephant cows give birth to one calf ca. every four years.

  • How much do asian elephants eat?

    Due to their size elephants require huge quantities of food, and may spend 14-19 hours a day feeding. They feed mainly on grasses, but also on tree bark, roots and leaves and can consume up to 150kg of food per day. They are also partial to cultivated crops such as bananas, rice and sugarcane.

  • How to tell the difference between asian and african elephants?

    The main difference between Asian and African elephants are the ears, with the Asian elephant’s ears being much smaller. Asian elephants in general are slightly smaller than their African relatives. At the end of their trunk Asian elephants have a small finger-like extension for grabbing items, and African elephants have two such “lips”.

  • What habitat does the asian elephant live in?

    Asian elephants are native to South East Asia, and can still be found in 13 countries in that region, ranging from sea level up to 3,000 metres. They have a very varied habitat consisting of grassland, tropical evergreen forest, semi-evergreen forest, deciduous forest and dry thorn forest, and their home ranges can be in excess of 600 km².

  • How long do asian elephants live in the wild?

    In the wild Asian elephants can live 60-70 years, and up to 80 years in zoos.

  • Which elephant is bigger African or Asian?

    Asian elephants are a bit smaller than their African cousins who can weigh up to 8,000kg and can have a shoulder height of up to 4m, whereas Asian elephants weigh up to 5,500 kg and are 3-3.5m tall.

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