Asian and African Elephant: Description, Facts, Longevity, Behavior, Diet and Threats
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They are huge and smart, strong 💪 and sociable. Humans have been in awe of elephants for centuries simply because they are so large - a male African elephant can weigh up to 7.5 tonnes (6.8 metric tons)! They also amaze us with their long, flexible nose, large flapping ears, and loose, wrinkled skin. There are many stories about elephants - you've probably heard of Horton, Babar and Dumbo. The elephant is one of the most famous animals in the world.
Elephants are a "keystone species". If a keystone species disappears through extinction or removal, the whole ecosystem will change drastically 🌞. Other species depend on the Keystone Species for their survival. They are also the largest land animals on Earth and eat an incredible 50 tons of food per year. Here's our guide to the world's largest land mammals, which includes key information on both species and their habitat, diet...
1) The African Elephant in 10 Seconds TOP CHRONO
- COMMON NAME : african elephant
- SCIENTIFIC NAME: Loxodonta africana
- BASIC GROUP OF ANIMALS: Mammals
- DIET: Herbivore
- NAME OF THE GROUP : Herd
- SIZE: Height at the shoulder, from 2.5 to 4 meters
- WEIGHT: 2.5 to 7 tons
- LIFESPAN: Up to 80 years (60 years in the wild.)
- HABITAT : Dense rainforests and African savannahs 🦏
- CURRENT POPULATION TREND: Rising
- CONSERVATION STATE: Vulnerable
2) The Largest Land Animal
The elephant, (family Elephantidae), the largest living land animal, is characterized by its long trunk (elongated upper lip and nose), its columnar legs, and its enormous head with temporal glands and large, flat ears . Elephants are grayish to brown in color, and their body hair is sparse and coarse.
They are most commonly found in savannahs , grasslands , and forests , but they occupy a wide range of habitats, including deserts, swamps, and highlands in tropical 🦜 and subtropical regions of Africa and Asia.
3) How Many Species of Elephants Are There?
If all the elephants look the same to you, take a closer look at them. There are two types of elephants that are generally recognized: the African savannah elephant and the Asian elephant 🌏. There is an ongoing debate about how many subspecies exist, or whether some of them might be full species. Elephants are also the only remaining members of the mammalian order Proboscidea. The order included the extinct woolly mammoth and the American mastodon.
Today, according to some scientists, three species of elephants have survived:
- Asian Elephant (Elephas Maximus)
- African savannah elephant (Loxodonta Africana)
- African Forest Elephant 🌲 (Loxodonta Cyclotis)
The common belief that there are "pygmy" elephants and "water" elephants is unfounded; these are probably varieties of African forest elephants. Thus, some taxonomists 👩🔬 propose that the African forest elephant (Loxodonta cyclotis) is a separate species from the African bush/savannah elephant, and others believe there may even be three species of elephants Africans with an additional species called the West African elephant. While African elephants are closely related, the Asian elephant is quite distinct.
Among the Asian elephants, there are three subspecies:
- Indian or mainland elephant (E. maximus indicus)
- Sumatran elephant (E. maximus sumatranus)
- The Sri Lankan elephant (E. maximus maximus)
They are distinguished by physical traits related to their geographical location 🏞.
4) How to tell the difference between an African Elephant and an Asian Elephant?
There are several anatomical and behavioral differences between the main species:
- Ears : The most noticeable is the difference in the ears. The ears of the African elephant are much larger than those of its Asian cousin, extending above the shoulder. African savannah elephants are said to have large ears that look a lot like the ears of the African continent. The ears 👂 of African forest elephants are more oval. While those of Asian elephants that live in cooler forest areas, have smaller ears that resemble the continent of India.
- Tusks: Both male and female African elephants have long tusks, but only male Asian elephants ♂️ have them (and not all males). Some female Asian elephants have barely visible, stocky-shaped tusks.
- Skin : The skin of African elephants is very wrinkled 👴 unlike Asian elephants whose skin is not as wrinkled as that of African elephants.
- Head : African elephants have a more rounded forehead, while Asian elephants have twin domes on their heads with a notch in the middle.
- Deceived : The tip of an African elephant's trunk has two fingers ✌ or "lips"; the trunk of the Asian elephant has only one.
- Back : While the back of the African elephant is concave (with a small hollow), that of the Asian elephant is convex (slightly domed).
- Size : In general, African elephants are larger. Adult males weigh up to six tons 🚢, while male Asian elephants usually weigh no more than five tons.
5) Questions & Answers on Elephants
A- Are Elephants Mammals?
The elephant is the largest land mammal in the world. They are warm-blooded vertebrates 🌡 who suckle their young with the milk produced by the mammary glands, and they are hairy creatures (the hair is just small and sparse, so they don't look hairy). This means that they fulfill all the conditions to be mammals.
B- How much does an elephant weigh?
African bush elephants are not only the largest elephants, but also the largest land animals in the world. They weigh an average of 6000 kg and stand 3.2 m 📏 at the shoulder on average, while females are around 60 cm shorter and weigh half the weight. Male Asian elephants weigh around 4,000 kg and measure 2.75 m at the shoulder, while the African forest elephant, which weighs 2,000 kg and measures 2.2 m, is the largest elephant species. small.
C- How much does a baby elephant weigh?
Baby elephants 👶 weigh on average around 100 kg , heavier than most adult males, and some newborns have reached 120 kg. These are the numbers for African bush elephants - baby elephants of other species are naturally smaller.
D- What is a baby elephant called?
Baby elephants are called baby elephants 🤠.
E- Do Baby Elephants Suck Their Trunks?
Yes, they do! As in all young mammals, the suckling reflex of the elephant calf, which encourages it to drink from its mother's breast, is strong. And when a youngster isn't feeding, they can suck their trunk for comfort, just like a human baby would suck their thumb 👍.
Although trunk sucking is more common in the early stages of life, elephants of all ages do it , even big old males, usually when feeling nervous or uncertain.
Sometimes an elephant that appears to be sucking its trunk is actually using it to smell , placing the tip in its mouth after touching or sniffing feces or urine to gauge pheromones produced by other elephants.
F- Can Elephants Be Right or Left Handed?
Yes. Just as humans are right-handed or left-handed 🖋, elephants are known to use one tusk more than the other . This favorite appendage is sometimes referred to as the "master tusk" and often looks more worn.
G- How Much Methane Does an Elephant Produce?
Elephants produce a lot of gas 💨 methane as a byproduct of digestion. Scientists estimate that the amount of methane they emit in one day would be enough to fuel a car for 32 km!
H- Are Elephants Dangerous?
They are well known for living in matriarchal (female led) social groups, and although elephants are respected and revered by people throughout their range in Africa and South Asia, they are also feared because they can be aggressive and dangerous .
I- When Are Elephants The Most Dangerous?
Musth, pronounced "must", is when males experience an increase in testosterone levels by a factor of 60 or more. These changes prepare them for competition for females and make them much more aggressive 🐯. This condition is more pronounced in Asian elephants and can last up to 60 days. Elephants in musth carry their heads and ears higher than normal and emit a characteristic growl. A bull elephant in musth can be extremely dangerous to anything in its path.
6) The Elephant; a Key Species
Elephants are a keystone species, which means they play a vital role in their ecosystem. Also called "ecosystem engineers", elephants shape their habitat in many ways. During the dry season, they use their tusks to dig the bed of dry rivers and create water points 💦 where many animals can drink. Their droppings are filled with seeds, which helps the plants spread through the environment.
In the forest, their feast on trees and shrubs creates passageways for small animals 🦥, and in the savannah, they uproot trees and eat young shoots, helping to keep the landscape open for zebras and other plains animals can thrive.
7) Elephant Habitat
Home is where the herd is. African elephants are found in eastern, central, and southern Africa . African savannah elephants live in the grasslands 🌾 of sub-Saharan Africa. The African forest elephant lives in the Congo River Basin in West Central Africa.
Asian elephants live throughout Southeast Asia , from India in the west to the Indonesian islands in the east. Their habitat is scrub forest and rainforest, and they are often found along rivers during the dry months.
8) The Pachyderm Diet
All species of elephants are herbivores and only consume plant material. Elephants eat all types of vegetation (more than 100 species of plants), - from grass and fruits 🍓 to leaves and bark - around 75-150 kilos per day, or 4-6% of their body weight bodily. They spend an average of 16 hours a day eating! These hungry animals don't sleep much, and they travel great distances while foraging for the large amounts of food they need to sustain their massive bodies.
An adult elephant also consumes about 100 liters of water per day 🛁; these amounts can double for a hungry and thirsty individual. Such consumption makes elephants an important ecological factor; they significantly affect and even modify the ecosystems in which they live.
A- The Food of the African Elephant
African elephants are grass feeders and eat grass , including sedges, flowering plants, leaves, shrubs, and small to medium-sized trees. African forest elephants are grazers and eat leaves, fruits, seeds, roots, branches and bark.
B- Feeding the Asian Elephant
Asian elephants are both browsers (feeding on shrubs and trees during the dry season and after heavy rains) and grazers (feeding on grass during the first part of the wet season). They can consume many plant species , as well as twigs, bark, and large amounts of bamboo. The choice of plants varies according to the seasons.
C- What does the Elephant Eat at the Zoo?
Zoo elephants eat less than their wild counterparts - about 57 kg of food per day - because they don't have to burn as many calories searching for food. Yet adult male African elephants need to eat over 70,000 calories a day! Zoo elephants are offered daily hay, herbivore pellets, acacias, celery, cucumbers 🥒 and lettuce. Elephants drink 75 to 190 liters of water per day. They drink by sucking up to 10 liters of water into their trunk, then squirting it into their mouths.
D- The Elephant and the Cultures of Man
As elephants eat a lot, they come into more and more contact with humans 👩🌾. An elephant can destroy an entire season of crops in a single night - a blow to a farmer, who may be out for revenge.
There are a number of conservation programs that work with farmers to help them protect their crops (elephants are so smart they can learn to get around electric fences ⚡ quickly!) and offer them compensation when an elephant attacks them.
9) Physical Description of the Pachyderm
The savanna 🐘 or bush elephant (Loxodonta africana) weighs up to 8,000 kg (9 tons) and measures 3 to 4 meters at the shoulder. The African forest elephant (Loxodonta cyclotis), which lives in tropical forests, was recognized as a separate species in 2000 and is smaller than the savannah elephant. It has slender, downward-pointing tusks.
The Asian elephant (Elephas maximus) weighs around 5,500 kg and has a shoulder height of up to 3.5 meters 🦒.
A- Fresh Ears
An elephant's ears are like an air conditioner . When elephants flap their ears on a hot day, the blood that circulates through the many blood vessels in the ears is cooled. If they cross a river and splash with the water, so much the better! This ear-flapping behavior cools their large bodies in hot weather.
B- The Loose and Thick Skin of the Elephant
The term "pachyderm" comes from the Greek word pachydermos, which means " thick-skinned ", and this term often refers to elephants, rhinos and hippos 🦛.
An elephant's skin can be up to 2.54 centimeters thick on some parts of its body. It's also loose, which makes the elephant look like it's wearing baggy pants or saggy bottoms. But there's a good reason for that: it keeps the animal cool by trapping moisture that takes longer to evaporate. And although it is thick, elephant skin is also very sensitive to touch and sunburn. Elephants often spray themselves with water or roll in mud or dust to protect themselves from the sun and biting insects.
C- The Ivory Tusks
The tusks are the incisor teeth of the elephant and are the only incisors the elephant has. They are used for self-defense , for digging for water and food , and for lifting objects . The tusks present at birth are milk teeth, which fall out after a year when they are about 5 centimeters long. The permanent tusks overtake the lips after two or three years and develop throughout the life of the animal. The size and shape of the tusks are hereditary.
African elephants of both sexes ♀️♂️ usually (but not always) have them and among Asian elephants only males have tusks, and not all males have them, these males are known as of muknas. About 1/3 of the tusks are hidden , buried deep in the elephant's head. This part of the tusk contains a central pulp cavity which contains tissue, blood and nerves.
The visible part of the tusk is made of ivory (dentin) under the outer layer of enamel, but the particular diamond pattern of the elephant's tusk gives it a distinctive luster that ivory tusks do not have. Other mammals like hippos, warthogs, walruses and sperm whales, and African elephants are sometimes killed by poachers just for their ivory tusks.
The average size and length of tusks have decreased over time ⏰, which is believed to be a side effect of selective hunting of male elephants with larger tusks. This is why the genetics inherited from the great tusks are becoming increasingly rare.
D- The Biggest Teeth in the Animal World
Elephants also have four molars, one on top and one on the bottom on each side of the mouth. A molar can weigh around 2.3 kilos and is the size of a brick 🧱! Each elephant can go through up to six sets of molars in its lifetime. (Elephants are hypsodonts, their teeth grow continuously.)
New teeth do not erupt vertically, as in most mammals, but grow from back to front , pushing old worn teeth out, like a tooth production line moving along the jaw back to front. As elephants age, their remaining molars are sensitive and worn down, so they prefer to eat softer food.
Swamps are the perfect place for soft plant food , which is why old elephants are often found there. Often they stay there until they die. This practice has led some people to believe that elephants go to special cemeteries to die.
E- The Nose or the Trunk?
The trunk, or proboscis, of the elephant is one of the most versatile organs to have evolved in mammals. This structure is unique to members of the order Proboscidea, which includes the extinct mastodons and mammoths 🦖. An elephant's trunk is both an upper lip and a nose. There are 8 major muscles on each side of the tube and 150,000 muscle fascicles (parts of muscles) for the entire tube.
There is no bone 🦴 or cartilage in this unique appendage. An elephant's trunk is so strong it can push trees and so nimble it can pick up a single twig of straw. Elephants also use their trunks like we use our hands: to grasp, hold, pick up, reach, touch, pull, push and throw. The proboscis is large and powerful, weighing around 130 kg in an adult male and capable of lifting a load of around 250 kg .
The trunk is also a nose 👃, and has two nostrils at its end which draw air through the long nasal passages and into the lungs. Elephants also use their trunks to drink, but the water does not come up to their noses like a straw; on the contrary, the elephant sucks the water only on a part of the trunk, rolls it up towards its mouth, tilts its head upwards and lets the water from the trunk pour out.
The Asian elephant most often wraps the tip of its trunk around an object and picks it up using a method called "grabbing", while the African elephant uses the "gripper", picking up objects from in a manner similar to the use of the thumb and forefinger by a human. The African elephant's trunk may be more stretchy, but the Asian elephant's is probably more dexterous .
Asian elephants have a small finger-like protrusion at the end of the trunk. African elephants have two "fingers" . These "fingers" (protrusions) are very sensitive and allow elephants to grasp very small objects 🔦.
10) Herds: The Social Structure of Elephants
A- Herd Organization
All elephants are herd animals with a very defined social structure. Elephants are matriarchal, meaning they live in groups led by females 👩. The matriarch is usually the tallest and oldest. She presides over a multi-generational herd that includes other females and their young.
The matriarch remembers where and how to find food and water, how to avoid predators 🦁, and the best places to shelter. She also keeps young elephants in line and teaches them how to behave in elephant society.
Male elephants stay with the herd during adolescence 📱, then move away as they grow. As adults, they tend to roam on their own, sometimes forming groups of smaller, less bonded males. African savannah elephants can live in very large herds consisting of 20–70 individuals , while African forest elephants, like Asian elephants, typically live in smaller herds.
When the groups get too large, the "linking groups" break apart but maintain a loose association. Sometimes groups of elephants allow "outsiders" 🤝 to join them. Living in a group makes individuals safer and allows them to devote more time to caring for and educating young people.
B- Good Manners Within the Elephant Herd
Good manners 🍴 are important in elephant society. The trunk is used to greet : an animal of lower rank will introduce the end of its trunk into the mouth of the other. A trunk can be extended to an approaching elephant to greet it and it is also used for petting, bonding, wrestling and checking breeding status.
11) Elephant Predators
Elephant calves can be a potential meal for hyenas, lions, leopards or crocodiles 🐊, but as long as they stay close to their mother or herd, they don't have to worry. If an elephant senses danger, it gives a loud alarm call to alert others. The herd then forms a protective ring, with the young in the middle and the adults facing outward to confront a potential predator. A healthy adult elephant's only enemy is a human poacher with a powerful gun.
12) Elephant Reproduction and Life Cycle
Having a baby elephant is a serious commitment 😳. Elephants have a longer gestation than any other mammal. Females generally give birth to a calf every two to four years. At birth, elephants already weigh about 90 kg and are about one meter tall.
A- The Gestation Period of Elephants
African elephants have a gestation period of 22 months , while Asian elephants have a gestation period of 18 to 22 months. Elephants usually give birth only two or three times in ten years, and young elephants can suckle 🍼 for a few years.
B- The Musth Period
Elephants live in small family groups led by old females (called cows). When food is plentiful 🌄, groups come together . Most males (bulls) live in bachelor herds. Both males and females have glands that open between the eye and the ear. Elephants of all ages and sexes secrete through this opening a liquid called temporin.
Males, however, enter a "period of musth" , during which they secrete a fluid whose viscosity differs from that of the fluid secreted when not in musth. Serum testosterone during musth is higher than in a non-musth elephant, and the animal's behavior is erratic; they are uncontrollable.
Musth is a time to establish a breeding hierarchy 🔞, which may differ from the usual social hierarchy in that a male in musth outranks other males. In the wild, males are usually in their best physical condition during musth and usually do most of the breeding activities.
Elephants are able to assess each other's reproductive status using their highly developed sense of smell 🍃 . Inside the skull, elephants have seven to nine nasal turbines with specialized sensitive tissue for olfaction (Humans have only three turbines, dogs have five).
When a female is in estrus, or when a male is in musth, the elephant can apparently detect airborne hormones . Once "collected", the information is then transmitted to Jacobson's organ, located on the palate 😛. This organ transmits molecules to the brain for analysis. Hormones are also sniffed out directly from urine and feces.
C- Baby Elephant
The newborn is about one meter tall and weighs about 100 kg. He suckles using the mouth, not the trunk, at the level of the mammary glands located in the chest area 👙. Elephant calves gain an average of 1 to 1.3 kg per day during their first year!
Weaning is a long process and sometimes continues until the mother can no longer tolerate the pecks 💥 of her offspring's emerging defenses. After weaning, many hours each day are devoted to feeding.
Herd mates tend to watch the calves if they are in distress. Despite all the games 🥎 and protection, baby elephants still have to navigate the social nuances and establish their social rank within the herd. Babies spend their days practicing moving all four legs in the same direction at the same time, perfecting their ear twist and mastering their proboscis control. They are clumsy with their proboscis at first, but they learn to use it as they get older. At the age of two or three years, they no longer need to be breastfed.
Elephants reach sexual maturity early in their second decade of life. African elephants reach sexual maturity at the age of 10-12 years, while Asian elephants reach sexual maturity at around 14 years old. It is during this period that the males leave their natal herd (herd of origin) to live either alone 🥶 or in small herds with other males. Females, on the other hand, stay with their natal herd throughout their lives. Although they live separately, adult male and female elephants mate or feed together for a short time.
D- The Use of the Trunk in Baby Elephants
Newborn elephants have little control over their trunks and must learn to use them. They train by exploring their environment, touching 🖐 other members of the herd, their environment and themselves. They must then master the use of their proboscis to feed. With over 50,000 individual muscle units in the tube, it's a complex skill to learn.
13) What is the Lifespan of Elephants?
Elephants can live up to 80 years or more in captivity, but only live around 60 years in the wild 🐦. The evidence does not support the existence of so-called "elephant graveyards", where elephants supposedly congregate to die (This unfounded myth is explained in paragraph 8) D-) . But in general, elephants have a rather short life of about 35-40 years.
14) Migration in the Savannah
Elephants migrate seasonally 🍁 depending on food and water availability. Memory plays an important role during this time, as they remember the locations of water supplies along migration routes. Intelligence has also been observed in conjunction with memory.
Although unable to jump or gallop, elephants can reach a maximum speed of 40 km per hour . Their legs are well adapted to support their great weight. The heel is partially raised, and below is a thick wedge of fatty, fibrous tissue protected by thick skin. It is not easy for elephants to lie down 😴 and get up; they sleep lying down for three to four hours at night. When standing, elephants doze for short periods but do not sleep soundly.
15) Memories and Intelligence of the Elephant
An elephant was once observed, using its tusks and trunk, to tear bark from a nearby tree and chew it until it formed a large ball, then clog a water hole which he had previously dug and covered the plug with sand. Subsequently (a few months later), the elephant was seen uncovering the sand, plugging the hole and drinking - behavior that could be interpreted as tool making.
Elephants are the largest land mammals in the world and apart from the great apes 🦧 (humans, gorillas, chimpanzees, bonobos and orangutans) they are also the most intelligent .
A- Do Elephants Recognize Their Reflections?
Elephants can recognize themselves in mirrors. Scientists believe this is a sign of greater self-awareness 😎 . In one study, an Asian elephant named Happy repeatedly touched an "X" painted on her forehead while looking at herself in the mirror, indicating she knew she was looking at her own reflection. Most animals assume that a reflection is another animal and look for it behind the mirror.
B- What is the Quality of an Elephant's Memory?
Elephants have an amazing long-term memory. Scientists studying three herds in Tanzania have found that during a long drought, the two herds led by older matriarchs left the drought zone 🏜 in search of water, and thus more of their group survived. The scientists concluded that these older females remembered a drought that had happened more than 30 years before and knew what to do.
A female elephant also recognized zoologist Iain Douglas-Hamilton, even though she hadn't seen him in four years . It may be true that elephants never forget; the expression “ to have an elephant's memory” 🤔 therefore does not come from nowhere!
C- Can Elephants Feel Empathy?
Elephants seem to understand what other elephants are feeling. Experiments show that when an elephant is unhappy, the others share their feelings 😪 , which is called "emotional contagion". In these situations, they will go to their "friend" and comfort him, often by putting their trunk in the other's mouth, which elephants find reassuring. The elephants also come to the aid of other injured elephants and even appear to mourn their dead.
D- Do Elephants have a Sixth Sense?
Elephants may be able to detect a thunderstorm 🌪 from 280 km away, and head towards it, looking for water. In 2004, elephants appeared to be heading for higher ground before the tsunami hit Asia.
16) What Sound does the Elephant make?
Sounds, trumpets , elephants make many different sounds 🔊; humans cannot hear some of these sounds because their frequency is too low for our ears. Elephants use these sounds to communicate with each other over long distances.
A- The Different Sounds of this Pachyderm
Have you ever had a growling stomach 🧁 at an unfortunate time? Well, stomach growls are a welcome sound in elephant society ; a stomach that makes rumbling and growling noises seems to signal to others that everything is "fine". It is now known that rumbling, originally thought to be due to bowel activity, is produced by the larynx.
Elephants produce two types of vocalizations by changing the size of the nostrils as air passes through the trunk. Low-pitched sounds are growl, rumble, snort and roar 🐅; high-pitched sounds are trumpet, trumpet phrase, bark, gruff cry, and shout.
B- Where do these sounds come from?
Sounds come from the larynx and a special structure associated with it, the pharyngeal pouch. In the vast majority of mammals, the throat contains nine bones connected in a box-like structure. Elephants have only five bones in the hyoid apparatus, and the space formed by the missing bones is filled with muscles, tendons, and ligaments. These looser attachments allow the larynx a large degree of freedom and allow the formation of the pharyngeal pouch just behind the tongue 👅.
This unique structure facilitates sound production and has voluntary muscles that allow the pocket to be used as a resonating chamber 📢 for calls made at frequencies below the range of human hearing. These low frequency calls (5-24 hertz) are answered by other elephants up to 4 km away.
Low-frequency sound waves propagate through the ground as well as through the air, and experimental results indicate that elephants can detect infrasonic 📞 calls as seismic waves. Elephants can produce a whole host of other sounds when striking the trunk against hard ground, a tree, or even against their own tusks.
17) Elephant Water Storage
In addition to the production of sounds, it is assumed that the pharyngeal sac serves to transport water. For centuries, people have observed that on hot days and at times when there is no water nearby, elephants put their trunks in their mouths , take out liquid and splash it on themselves ⛲. The origin of this fluid and the ability of elephants to remove it has posed a mystery, although the pharyngeal pouch was described in 1875. Two plausible sources of this fluid are the stomach and the pharyngeal pouch.
The contents of the stomach, however, are acidic and would irritate the skin. Also, the sprayed liquid contains small food particles that are typically found in the pharyngeal pouch, as opposed to digested food from the stomach. Finally, repeated observations in the field attest that elephants can spray themselves while walking or running.
Since it would be difficult to suck the liquid from the stomach while running, the most likely explanation for the source of the liquid 🧪 is the pharyngeal pouch. Another possible function of the pouch is heat absorption , especially from the sensitive area of the brain above.
18) The Elephant and the Man
A- The Domestication of the Elephant
For many centuries, the Asian elephant has played an important role as a ceremonial and draft animal. Technically, elephants weren't domesticated 🐕🦺 , because they weren't selectively bred to "enhance" the traits humans want, as has been the case with cattle, horses and dogs.
Historical records of tamed Asian elephants date back to the Indus civilization of the 3rd millennium BC. In Mohenjo-daro and Harappa, Pakistan, soapstone carvings 🧼 depict elephants with cloth on the back, indicating that they are used by humans. Mahouts and oozies (elephant trainers in India and Myanmar, respectively) are skilled people who stay in direct contact with the animals for many years.
The trainers take care of all the needs of the elephants, and the bond between man and beast becomes very strong ❤. Hastividyarama, an age-old manual for elephant trainers, explains in detail the prescribed training procedures and is still used today in parts of Asia. Commanded by its mahout, the elephant was once the basis of logging operations in Southeast Asia. It remains a symbol of power and pageantry, but has been largely supplanted by machines.
B- The Use of this Animal by Man: Tourist Elephants
At the start of the 21st century, Thailand and Myanmar each had around 5,000 captive elephants , employed in traditional roles intermingled with modern use as tourist attractions.
The most famous historical event using elephants in warfare was that of Hannibal, the young commander of the Carthaginians who crossed the Alps 🏕 from Spain to Italy. He left Cartagena, Spain, in 218 BC with 37 elephants - 36 African forest elephants and one Asian - each under their own well-trained mahout. The Asiatic, Hannibal's personal elephant named Surus (meaning "Syrian"), is the only one that survived to reach Italy.
African elephants were also tamed during the 19th century, in what was the Belgian Congo. The training of these forest elephants was initiated by King Leopold II of Belgium and was carried out by Indian mahouts with Asian elephants. African elephants are now mainly used for transporting tourists to Garamba National Park 🌍, where they are valuable in providing income to support its activities.
19) Elephants Facing Threats to Their Survival
A- The Many Threats to Elephants
Elephants are highly intelligent animals whose existence is threatened. Habitat loss , human-elephant conflict , and poaching for ivory and bushmeat are major threats to elephant populations. Elephants have been relentlessly hunted for their tusks (even though they are made of dentin, like our teeth).
Poaching for the ivory trade is the greatest threat to the survival of African elephants. Before Europeans began to colonize Africa, there were perhaps as many as 26 million. The arrival of Europeans kicked off the ivory trade trend, in which tusks were used as piano keys, billiard balls, combs and all sorts of other items. By the start of the 20th century, the number of elephants had dropped to 10 million. The hunt continued to increase. By 1970, their number had fallen to 1.3 million.
At the start of the 21st century, there were fewer than 50,000 Asian elephants left in the wild. Threatened by habitat loss and poaching, Asian and African elephants are classified as endangered species 🚨. From 1979 to 1989, the number of African elephants in the wild more than halved, from 1,300,000 to 600,000, in part due to commercial demand for ivory.
However, in parts of Africa, elephants are abundant and culling 🔫 is practiced in some reserves to avoid habitat destruction. A nine-year ban on ivory trade was lifted in 1997, and Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe were allowed to sell limited stocks of ivory from government warehouses in Japan. In 2000, South Africa joined the three southern African countries in selling limited quantities of ivory from existing stocks.
As of 2013, the Asian elephant population has seen a 90% decline over the past 100 years and some experts suggest that 95% of their original habitat has been lost over the same period. Estimates vary, but most agree that the African elephant population has declined by 75% . Today, it is estimated that there are between 300,000 and 500,000 wild elephants in Africa and less than 60,000 in Asia. Asian elephants are recognized as an endangered species along with the African elephant species.
B- The Elephant Trade
Since the third millennium BC, elephants have been kept in captivity. They were used as beasts of burden, tools of war and objects of interest and curiosity 🧐. In 1796, an American merchant imported a young female Asian elephant for display, a first in North America.
Throughout the 1800s, the demand for elephants in exhibitions and circuses increased 📈 significantly. Young elephants were captured from the wild at an early age, separated from the family herd and sold for a lifetime of shows, travels, confined spaces and exhibitions.
In the late 20th century, research and observation led many to conclude that elephants are highly intelligent and emotionally complex animals whose needs are difficult to meet in captivity. In 1995, the Tennessee Elephant Sanctuary was founded to serve as a sanctuary where captive elephants could safely live out their lives in natural habitat in the company of other elephants.
C- The Adaptation of Elephants to Poachers
As poachers target elephants for their tusks, these years of violence have also had an expected result: African elephants are evolving to be born without tusks 😶 . Studies across the continent have shown that areas where poaching was historically higher now have higher proportions of tuskless females than usual. Researchers are still trying to understand how this evolution might affect the species in the long term.
20) The Conservation of the Last Pachyderms
African elephants are protected to varying degrees in all countries within their geographic range. They are also protected by international agreements 📝 on the environment, CITES and the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species. Efforts have been made recently to re-legalize the international ivory trade, but have so far failed.
Conservation groups and governments have been working to set aside lands for wildlife 🐞, including corridors connecting these protected lands. Yet researchers believe that up to 70% of elephant range is on unprotected land.
To fight against poaching, it is essential to put an end to the illegal trade 🏛. Advocates have launched campaigns that address both supply (poaching) and demand (people buying ivory). Progress has been made in recent years, particularly on the demand side: in 2015, China - considered the world's largest market for illegal and legal ivory - agreed to an "almost total" ban on domestic trade ivory. Since the ban came into effect, public demand for ivory appears to have diminished.
On the supply side, protecting elephants from poaching also requires a local approach. In 2019, a study showed that the suffering of elephants 😥 is linked to that of humans living nearby: Areas with high levels of poverty and corruption are more likely to have higher poaching rates. This suggests that helping communities develop sustainable livelihoods could reduce the appeal of poaching.
It is also important to strengthen law enforcement and reduce 📉 corruption .
21) Elephant Stuffed Animals
Your little baby elephant must surely love to play and be carried away by his imagination to wander through his magical and wonderful worlds. But as they say, it's always better with two, so discover your child's new playmate now.
Your child will love adopting an elephant soft toy whether it's to climb on his back and explore the savannah, or go play with a pink elephant soft toy in an imaginary world or fall asleep cuddling his soft toy so sweet!