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Indian Elephant |
Indian Elephant Also known
as the Asian elephant, the Indian Elephant is a gentle giant. Often tamed for
use as a load-bearing animal, elephants are prized for their immense strength,
their sedate nature when tamed and are worshipped in India as an incarnation of
the elephant headed god Ganesha. Tame elephants are often kept in temples in India
and bear the images of the gods in temple processions on festive days. Elephants
have been used historically in India as the mounts of rulers, and as a part of
The Indian Elephant
is found across India in protected forests and in Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh and
It is estimated that there are over 28,000 Indian Elephants in India, including
zoos and animal parks.
Elephants are the largest of all mammals on land. The Indian elephant is smaller
than the African elephant, however it can grow up to 11 feet tall and weigh up
to 5 tons. The elephant's brain is the heaviest of all land mammals and can weigh
up to 5 Kg. Elephants have large ears, are covered with gray hairy skin, and are
characterized by their long trunks which can be used in a number of ways including
for breathing, to suck in water or food, to lift and pull objects, and to make
trumpeting noises and other sounds for communication. All male Indian elephants
do not have tusks. Elephants that do have large tusks are hunted by poachers who
seek the tusks for their ivory. The tusks, which are elongated incisor teeth,
are used for digging, pushing and fighting with other male elephants. The molar
teeth which elephants use for chewing are located within their mouths and are
replaced as they get worn out, until about age 40.
The Indian Elephant is found in the wild in densely
forested areas of India including the tropical forests of South India, North East
India and the sub Himalayan region. Also known as the Asian Elephant it is found
in Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, Thailand, Malaysia, Myanmar, Viet Nam,
Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos and China.
Elephants are herbivorous creatures and spend a large amount of time everyday
eating up to 300 Kg of vegetation, including grass, leaves, fruit and the bark
of trees. The length of an elephant's digestive system is around 100 feet. Elephants
that are tamed are fed on leaves, sugarcane, bananas and rice gruel.
Elephants have a complex social structure. In the wild
they live in family groups led by mature female elephants, their young and sometimes
older bull elephants. Mature male elephants are often solitary or live in small
groups of male elephants only. Elephants live up to 70 years old and can sleep
while standing. Tame elephants are made to sit or lie down while its trainer or
mahout attends to it, in the wild however an elephant will not lie down unless
it is sick.
Elephants enjoy wallowing in water, which helps clean their
skin, which does not have any sweat glands. Adult male elephants around the age
of 20 undergo a phase of heightened sexual urge known as "musth." Male elephants
become aggressive and violent for a phase lasting up to 60 days. This phase recurs
periodically through an adult male elephant's life. Female elephants can bear
young around the age of 16. Usually one, but sometimes two, offspring are born
at a time. Elephants give birth to about 4 young ones over a span of 60 years.
Elephants communicate through a variety of noises, including infrasonic sounds,
which are inaudible to human beings.
Indian Elephants are threatened by poaching for 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. Recently a number of corridors
connecting wildlife sanctuaries have been established to encourage the migration
of wild elephants.
Tourists can see the Indian Elephant in most of the
national parks in India while traveling on India wildlife tours: Periyar National
Park in Kerala in South India and Corbett National Park in Uttaranchal in North
India, are some of the best sanctuaries where Indian elephants can be observed
in their natural habitat.