The Mighty & MILD
Indian Elephants (elephas maximus indicus) live in or near the forest, although their habitat may vary. They tend to be nomadic and roaming in nature and do not stay in one place for more than a few days. They can live in jungles but gravitate towards areas that contain open space and grass.
The Indian Elephant is up to 6.4 metres (21 ft) long Its height at the shoulder is between 2 and 3.5 metres (6.6 and 11.5 ft) and it weighs between 2.7 and 4.5 tonnes. It is taller and thinner than the Asian elephant found in Thailand. The Indian elephant is known for its large amounts of defecation in one time.
Since Indian Elephants are a subspecies of the Asian Elephants, there are not many differences. Indian elephants have smaller ears, but relatively broader skulls and larger trunks than African elephants. Females are smaller than males and have little or no tusks. Toes are large and broad. The feet and nails are not large. Unlike their African cousins, their abdomen is proportionate with their body weight but the African elephant has a large abdomen as compared to the skulls.
At most seasons of the year the Indian elephant is a timid animal, much more ready to flee from a foe than to make an attack. Solitary rogues are, however, frequently an exception to this rule, and sometimes make unprovoked attacks on passers-by. Females with calves are at all times dangerous to approach. During musth the male elephant is highly dangerous, not only to human beings, but to its fellow animals.
In regard to movement on land, the only pace of the elephant is the walk, capable of being increased to a fast shuffle of about 24 km an hour for very short distances. It can neither trot, nor gallop. It does not move with the legs on the same side together, but nearly so.
India’s elephant population is estimated at 28,250 (2007-08), the largest in Asia. About half of these are found in the states of Assam, Arunachal Pradesh and Meghalaya, Orissa, Kerala and Karnataka in far northeastern India. But numbers have been falling due to habitat fragmentation, human encroachment, mining and dam construction. In a number of areas the government has set up corridors for the elephants to travel from one area to another. In India alone, elephant-human conflict results in about 300 human lives and 200 elephant deaths each year due to poaching, crop protection and any number of other accidents, including vehicle-elephant collisions.
The Asian elephant was and still is a target for poachers today. Because only the males have tusks, it has resulted in devastating the breeding patterns. In some places there are as few as 1 male for every 100 females, which results in limited genetic interchange and low birth rates. In better-protected areas, birth rates are high with up to 90 per cent of adult cows being accompanied by calves, instead of perhaps 30 per cent in area of severe poaching. Females as well as males are also killed for their hides and meat.
Rapid development has brought massive deforestation throughout India and is a major factor that has caused a dramatic decline in the Indian elephant population. The WWF considers the Indian Elephant widely distributed, but endangered. The Indian Elephant was assessed as an endangered species in 1996 by the Asian Elephant Specialist Group.
By Sachin Kaushik