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Why Asian elephants?

One of the greatest wildlife stories of our time is unfolding right now. The demise of the Asian elephant and its efforts to fight back.

Asian elephants are often overshadowed (literally and figuratively!) by their larger African cousins when we talk about conservation. In reality, Asia’s population is dwindling to approximately 47,000, classifying these beautiful animals as between ‘endangered’ and ‘critically endangered’. The story of Asia’s elephants may not have been widely told yet, but Elephant Family is changing that.

Spotting an Asian elephant

Asian elephants are smaller than African elephants, and their backs are more convex or level. Their head has two domes rather than one, and they have smaller ears. Their trunk has just one “finger” while African elephants have two. Unlike African elephants, usually only male Asian elephants have tusks, and even tuskless males (makhnas) are regularly seen in the wild. Some females have just short, stunted tusks known as tushes. Their skin is smoother than the African elephant's grey-brown colour, and often lacking pigment in patches on the trunk, ears and neck, which consequently appear pink and speckled. Males can be taller than 3m at the shoulder, with females reaching up to 2.5m.

Why are Asian elephants so important?

Losing the Asian elephant would result in the collapse of Asia’s already fragile ecosystems. Asian elephants are often referred to as the 'mega gardeners of the forest'. They consume vast amounts of vegetation which ensures that certain plant species don’t become too dominant in any one environment. The pathways created by elephant migration in Asia play an important environmental role in opening up forests for other animals to move through. Protecting these ‘elephant corridors’ is not only essential for the conservation of Asian elephants, but also for their habitat and all creatures that share it.

“Conserving elephants [is] about protecting one of the forces that shapes ecosystems and helps sustain the wealth of wildlife found across much of the continent. It is about saving the creative power of nature.”
— Douglas Chadwick, The Fate of the Elephant