Elephants are an important cultural icon in Asia. According to Hindu mythology, the gods (deva) and the demons (asura) churned the oceans in a search for the elixir of life so that they would become immortal. As they did so, nine jewels surfaced, one of which was the elephant. In Hinduism, the powerful deity honored before all sacred rituals is the elephant-headed Lord Ganesha, who is also called the Remover of Obstacles.
Asian elephants are extremely sociable, forming groups of six to seven related females that are led by the oldest female, the matriarch. Like African elephants, these groups occasionally join others to form herds, although these associations are relatively transient.
More than two thirds of an elephant’s day may be spent feeding on grasses, but large amounts of tree bark, roots, leaves and small stems are also eaten. Cultivated crops such as bananas, rice and sugarcane are favorite foods. Elephants are always close to a source of fresh water because they need to drink at least once a day.
Fewer than 50,000
- SCIENTIFIC NAME
Elephas maximus indicus
6.5– 11.5 feet
around 11,000 pounds
around 21 feet