One of the most emblematic animals in Asia is the Asian elephant. This giant mammal, strong symbol of this area, has belonged to culture and traditions for thousands of years.
The Asian elephant, Elephas maximus, is a colossal animal of the family Elephantidae which is divided into four subspecies. Physically smaller than the African elephant, the mammal lives in countries such as Vietnam, India, Thailand, Laos and Nepal. Historically, Asian elephants had a big role in the development of Asian civilizations since its domestication 5,000 years ago. Its use as a means of transportation, war auxiliary and worker in wood made it a venerable animal.
In Vietnam, the Asian elephant is very important in culture and religion. A long time ago, the ancestors of this pachyderm glorified royal courts and were revered by ethnic minorities. With its role in the war for the independence of Vietnam, in the transport of heavy equipment, it has the eternal gratitude of the Vietnamese.
In Asia, this giant is the largest mammal on the continent. On average, the animal measuring 3m high for a male and 2,5m for a female, its height varies between 2.75 and 4 tons. In addition to its smaller size, the Asian elephant is truly different from its African cousin. Indeed, it has only one “finger” on its prehensile upper lip, on the tip of its trunk, whereas the African elephant has two.
Another feature of this species is its small ears, but its sense of hearing is very good. In addition, the Asian elephant has correct eyesight and an amazing sense of smell thanks to its fabulous olfactory capabilities. To recognize the herbivorous, look at the skin color: it ranges from gray to brown and there may be pink spots on some parts of its body.
In the wild, it lives in shady forests where flora allows it to satisfy its vegetarian diet. However, the Asian elephant is threatened by extinction in its natural area, because of deforestation and increase of indigenous peoples. A fifth of the world population lives in or very near areas inhabited by elephants.
Vietnam, India and Burma have banned the capture of wild elephants. However, legislation in those countries of Southeast Asia does not stop illegal acts. The poaching of ivory is the best example. In addition, WWF indicates that there are still between 25,600 and 32,750 individuals in the wild.
Today, domesticated Asian elephant is used for tourism. Attractions and shows define the main activity of these animals. Furthermore, we also find them in religious ceremonies and festivals, transportation, and animal conservation missions.
The conservation of this species is very serious in countries such as Vietnam. For example, the Dak Lak province offers a bonus of $20.000 to the owner of an elephant that succeeds in having an elephant calf. However, money is not the real problem to try to preserve the Asian elephant. “Instead of giving us money, give us forest please. We will help elephants to reproduce” says a Dak Lak elephant breeder.
Credits : Thangaraj Kumaravel