Asian elephant, Indian elephant

Asian elephants (Elephas maximus) are more easily tamed than their larger African counterparts, and have been used as beasts of burden for centuries.

E.m.maximus, E.m.indicus, E.m.sumatranus.

Life span
Asian elephants live for 70 years.

Body Length: 5.5-6.40m, Shoulder height: 2.5-3m, Weight: Male: 5000kg, Female: 3000kg, Tail length: 1-1.3m.

Physical Description
Asian elephants are distinguished from their African counterparts by their smaller size, smaller ears, more rounded back, and a fourth toenail on each of their hind feet. They have thick, dry skin with a small amount of stiff hair, and are grey to brown in colour. Female Asian elephants have rudimentary tusks.

Asian elephants have an extensive range across India and Sri Lanka and also occur further south and east as far as Sumatra. These three areas appear to contain subspecies all with slightly different characteristics.

Asian elephants are spread over areas where rainfall levels vary considerably. They can survive in dry places where less than 40cm of rain falls per year, and in wet areas where over 8m of rain can fall in a year.

Elephants have a diverse vegetarian diet, including grasses, bamboo, legumes, bark, succulent climbers, creepers and palms. They have seasonal favourites such as fig leaves and fruits, tamarind, wood apple and mango.

Asian ElephantAsian elephants are very sociable and live in basic family units of one adult cow and her offspring. Daughters remain with their mothers, but sons leave at puberty, often joining bull groups or remaining solitary. Bull elephants associate with a family when a cow is in oestrus.

This species does not appear to be territorial. Males have home ranges of about 15 square km, and herds of females have ranges of about 30 square km, which increases in the dry season. Seasonal migration has been made virtually impossible, due to human development.

Females usually have one calf after a gestation period of 18-22 months and give birth every three to four years. The calves weigh about 100kg at birth and suckle for about 18 months. They can eat some vegetation after several months.

Conservation status
Asian elephants are classified as Endangered by the 2000 IUCN Red List. They have long since vanished from Southwest Asia and most of China. Sri Lanka was once recognised for its large elephant populations, but today the numbers are being reduced.Asian Elephant

As the number of humans increases, the area of natural habitat that the elephants rely on is being depleted. Elephants are being forced onto farming areas, where they cause damage. It is estimated that 28,000 to 42,000 Asian elephants remain in the wild.


The Indian Elephant was assessed as an endangered species in 1996 by the Asian Elephant Specialist Group. Indian Elephants are threatened by poaching for the ivory of their tusks, by the loss of habitat due to human pressure on forested areas and due to human conflict. The isolated populations of wild elephants in individual wildlife sanctuaries are also threatened by loss of genetic diversity.

Indian Elephants

Kerala has more than 700 elephants in captivity. Most of them are owned by temples and individuals. They are used for religious ceremonies in and around the temples. A few elephants work at timber yards.

Each elephant has three manhouts, called pappan in the Malayalam language. The most important duty of the mahouts is to bathe and massage the elephant with small rocks, and husk of coconut. In the monsoon, the elephants undergo Ayurvedic rejuvanation treatments which include decoctions with herbs, etc. It is called Sukha Chikitsa in the Malayalam language.

Mahout use three types of device to control elephants. Thotti (hook) which is 3.5 feet in length and 3 inches thick, Valiya kol (long pole) which is 10.5 feet in length and 5.5 inches in thickness and cheru kol (short pole).

Main reasons behind this Elephant wrath.

1)Elephants prefer to live in the cooler shadows of dense forests.Normally they they go for long bathes in the streams and mud bath afterwards to cool down body.while in capture they are forced to participate in temple festivals in the hot summer days having temparature of 40 -45(They are comfortable only in 20-25).These huge animals are not having resperatory glands to sweat it out.
2)Inborn violent nature during the mating period.
3)Torturing and cruelity by manhouts and onlookers.
4)Lack of proper feeding and medical care.


  • Gladis

    Is there a difference between the asian elephant and african elephant? Like, are they different species?

    • smallanimalplanet

      Hi Gladis!

      Good question! They are separate species.

      There are many differences between Asian and African elephants. Both types of elephant are members of the same taxonomical family, elephantidae, but are of a different genus; elephas maximus (Asian elephants, Loxodonta africana (African savanna elephants) and Loxodonta cyclotis (African Forest Elephant).

  • Gary

    Elephants often refuse to leave their sick and injured behind. Compassionate creatures.