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Text and photos by Nick Baker, unless credited to others.
Copyright ゥ Ecology Asia 2024







Asian Elephant

Fig 1

Fig 2

Fig 3

Fig 4

Fig 5


Family : Elephantidae
Species : Elephas maximus

Height :
Male : 1.7-2.6 metres
Female 1.5-2.2 metres

The Asian Elephant, so long a central part of many Southeast Asian cultures, is in slow decline. Once used for timber extraction and other duties its place has been taken by tractors and bulldozers. In Thailand there are efforts to find new jobs for working elephants in the eco-tourism industry, and to carry forest rangers in protected forests.

Despite their huge size wild elephants are elusive, spending much of their time deep in the forest feeding on young palm and bamboo shoots and fresh leaves. In their search for food, herds of elephants can cause great damage to crops and fruit orchards in areas recently converted from forest to agriculture.

Females are generally docile, but large males can be aggressive. Males have tusks up to 1.5 metres long. They are active by day and night, and are able swimmers.

The Asian Elephant ranges from India and Sri Lanka to Myanmar, Thailand, Indochina, Peninsular Malaysia, Sumatra and Borneo. Lack of space means they are absent in Singapore, however a few years ago a small group of young elephants swam from Malaysia to the Singapore island of Pulau Tekong, before being rounded up and sent back. 

Figs 1 and 2 : Adult male at a natural salt lick in an area of grassland at Khao Yai National Park, Thailand.

Fig 3 : Adult female browsing in dense secondary foliage.

Fig 4 : Tracks left by a juvenile male in soft, sandy soil - twice the width of Tony O'Dempsey's hand. Adult tracks can reach 50cm across.

Fig 5 : These elephant droppings measure up to 20 cm across.

References : M1, M2

Links :
Asian Elephant Specialist Group

MEME - Management and Ecology of Asia Elephants