Asian elephants live in South and Southeast Asia in a wide range of habitats; from thick jungle to grassy plains, from sea level up to 10,000 feet. They are herbivores.
Asian elephant behavior and facts
- Asian elephants eat bamboo, fruit, leaves, shoots and grasses.
- They are shorter and heavier than African elephants. Asian elephants have rounded backs, small ears and relatively smooth skin while African elephants have dipped backs, large ears (shaped like the African continent) and very wrinkly skin.
- Elephants use their trunks to communicate, touch, eat, drink and smell. Hundreds of muscles make the trunk strong, flexible and deft, it can lift heavy logs or pluck a single leaf from a tree. Elephants can even use their trunks like snorkels to breathe underwater.
- Some males have tusks, long incisor teeth that grow up to 5 feet long. Most females and many males have tushes, much smaller teeth that lack a central nerve (unlike tusks).
- Asian elephants are highly social and form strong bonds with other herd members. Females and calves live in multigenerational, matriarchal herds, while adult males spend time away from herds and in "bachelor" herds.
- Their range varies, but is generally very large: from 11 to 133 square miles for elephants in Sri Lanka, to more than 231 square miles for elephants in south India.
From birth to death
- Gestation: 20 to 22 months
- A single calf is born
- At birth the mother is attended by other adult females ("aunties").
- Sexual maturity: Females 6 to 10 years old; males 8 to 12 years old
- Lifespan: 60 to 70 years
- Weight: 6,000 to 13,000 pounds
- Height: 7 to 10 feet at the shoulder
Endangered under the U.S. Endangered Species Act, CITES Appendix I and the IUCN Red List. The Association of Zoos and Aquariums coordinates an Asian elephant Species Survival Plan, of which the Oregon Zoo is a participant.
Asian elephants, the Oregon Zoo and you
The zoo's elephants live in the Asian Elephants exhibit. They eat fresh produce, hay, oats and enrichment treats like seasonal vegetables and plant clippings. The oldest elephant at the zoo, Packy, is large for an Asian elephant. He weighs 12,500 pounds and stands 10 feet, 6 inches at the shoulder.
As the world's population continues to expand, the biggest threats to Asian elephants are habitat loss or degradation, and fragmentation of the wide ranges the elephants require. Poaching and conflicts with humans are other threats.
Thanks to funding from the bond passed by voters in 2008, an expanded Asian elephant habitat will support a richer social and family life for the zoo's elephants. The much larger exhibit will offer a variety of terrain, scratching surfaces, elephant controlled showers, pools for bathing and mud wallows to cool and protect skin.
Asian elephants at the Oregon Zoo
Heights and weights as of March 2012.