The Asian elephant is the largest surviving land mammal in Asia. Although significantly smaller than its African cousin, it is still an awesome beast. An adult bull can weigh over five tonnes. It is also distinguished by its smaller, more rounded ears. Female Asian elephants usually lack tusks, which has the added benefit of making them less vulnerable to ivory poachers.
Asian elephants are highly intelligent animals characterised by strong family bonds, sophisticated forms of communication and complex behaviour, including tool use and the ability to feel grief and compassion. Their versatile trunks are equally capable of brute force (pushing over a tree in order to reach leaves on the inaccessible upper branches, for example) or performing a delicate task such as picking up a peanut.
They are adapted to a wide variety of habitats including dense tropical evergreen forest, dry and wet deciduous forests, scrubland and grasslands.
The species has disappeared from much of its former range and is now largely confined to isolated populations across 13 countries in South and Southeast Asia, scattered across a total area of roughly half a million square kilometres.
Fewer than 50,000 wild Asian elephants are estimated to survive today, compared to around half a million of their African cousins.