Species: E. maximus
The Asian elephant is one of three recognized extant species of the family elephantidae; the other two are the African forest elephant and the African bush elephant. It is also the largest terrestrial mammal in Asia. This hullking animal once patrolled vast stretches of Asia in abundance, but today is an endangered species confined to a few select regions of South and Southeast Asia. It is estimated that there are only between 25,600 and 32,750 individuals remaining in the wild. The Asian elephant has also become prominent as a domestic creature, assisting in industry as a beast of burden and also fulfilling tourist and traditional roles. In military history, the Asian elephant has been a presence upon a many battlefields, used for combat from the days of Ancient India through the era of Alexander the Great and into the days of the Moguls.
Asian elephants are generally smaller than their African bush counterparts. Asian elephants differ from their African cousins with their smaller ears and different cranial structure. Also, while both male and female African elephants have long tusks, only the male Asian elephant has visible tusks; the female Asian elephant’s tusks are so short they are pratically not visible. There are four currently recognized subspecies of Asian elephant: the Indian elephant (E. m. indicus), the Sri Lanka elephant (E. m. maximus), the Sumatran elephant (E. m. sumatrensis), and the newly classified Borneo elephant (E. m. borneensis). Of the four subspecies, the smallest is the Borneo elephant, also known as the Borneo pygmy elephant (which also bears the recognition of being the tamest of the four as well). The largest is the Sri Lankan elephant, closely followed by the Indian elephant. Although both races can reach heights of a bit over 11 feet, the Sri Lankan elephant has a heavier weight of up to 12,000 lbs.
Elephants are voracious eaters, consuming about 10% of their body weight in food each day. It also requires 80 – 200 liters of water daily as well. It feeds on a wide array of vegetation, preferring grasses but also eating leaves, roots, banks, and vines.
Elephants primarily occur in scrub forests, but are also found along forest edges where more open and grassy areas are available. They range from India, Nepal, and Bangladesh to Sri Lanka and throughout portions of Indochina. It is also found in parts of Indonesia.
Females are capable of giving birth about every 4 – 6 years, and can birth about 7 calves per lifetime. Gestation lasts for approximately 19 – 22 months. Mothers, grandmothers, sisters, and aunts all help in raising the young.