Asian elephants are gregarious animals, living in herds that average 20 members. In the 19th century, groups of 100 animals were not uncommon. Females live with their young in herds that are led by a matriarch—usually the oldest and largest elephant. Adult males frequently form their own groups, but can live solitary as well.
Elephants do not appear to be territorial and their home ranges can span up to 40 square miles in some places. Unfortunately, Asian elephant habitat has been increasingly converted into farmland, which has limited the extent of their seasonal migrations.
The average adult elephant eats 330 pounds of food every day. And it’s not just peanuts. Being herbivores, Asian elephants eat grasses, bark, roots, leaves, and stems. Elephants usually change locations every few days to seek out new sources of food. They also consume some crops, which unfortunately, can lead to violent conflicts with farmers.
Female elephants usually give birth to one calf. After 20 months in the womb, a newborn can weigh as much as 330 pounds! Calves can stand shortly after birth and follow their mothers after a few days. Elephants are fully grown by 17 years of age and can live for up to 80 years.
Some of My Neighbors
Sumatran Tigers, Clouded Leopards, Gibbons, Gaur, Douc Langur, Sun Bears, Otters, Sumatran Rhino, Green Peafowl
Population Status & Threats
The Asian elephant is considered endangered, which means there is a very high risk of this animal’s extinction in the wild in the near future. Its population has declined more than 50 percent in recent decades due to habitat destruction, human conflicts, and poaching. Elephants have been hunted extensively for their ivory tusks.
As a major partner of the CITES Monitoring the Illegal Killing of Elephants (MIKE) program in Africa and Asia, WCS helps governments make effective conservation and management decisions. Knowing how many elephants are living in what areas is key to determining which populations are most important to protect. Projects in Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, and Thailand are analyzing elephant dung to estimate the size and status of elephant populations. This work helps conservationists identify areas where elephants are vulnerable to hunting, habitat degradation, and conflict with humans. WCS is also working with local people, especially farmers, to reduce human-elephant conflict. One new initiative to keep African elephants out of crops and increases income for local farmers is the Elephant Pepper Development Trust. Because chili peppers are distasteful to elephants and other crop-raiding mammals, farmers plant them as buffers around their maize, sorghum, and millet fields. The chili effectively wards off the elephants without harm, requires little expense, and introduces a viable cash crop to the economies of African nations.
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