Who is it?
The morphology of the Asian elephant is slightly different from that of its African cousin, which is somewhat larger: its forehead is more domed, its ears rounder and smaller, its back more arched and its trunk, which ends in one lip rather than two, is smoother. When it is born, this giant mammal is covered by a striking layer of black hair, which it gradually loses until its thick grey skin is uncovered. The same skin which effectively protects its from insect bites and bad weather in the temperature forest or the taiga. Elephants typically make a mass of earth and water with their trunk which they spray over their back, due to their need to cool themselves. Their current range comprises Sri Lanka, the south and northeast of India, Bangladesh, Indo-china, Malacca, Sumatra and part of Borneo.
What are its habits?
It feeds on leaves and fruit, and they live in herds led by a matriarch, its calves and often a pair of males (one old and, on occasion, another, young one). Otherwise, most of the males leave the herd during adolescence: they only return to the females when they perceive, by means of infrasound, that one desires to reproduce. A tournament then arises between them, from which a winner will emerge (the one who will mate with the female; if she accepts him, of course). The gestation lasts for 22 months, after which a single calf, which may be suckled for five years. An Asian elephant calf weighs about 100 kg and is one metre tall. For the first six months of its life, it feeds exclusively on its mother’s milk, which it subsequently complements with fodder and vegetables. It is estimated that in the first month it can reach 200 kg; and as an adult, about five tonnes.
Did you know…
One of the greatest curiosities surrounding the Asian elephant is “musth”. That is the name given in India to an illness which attacks the males of the species, a sort of temporary insanity which makes the elephant dangerous for a few weeks.