Are there different sub-species?
The Asian elephant (Elephas maximus) can be divided by the zoologists in three subspecies:
- Ceylon elephant (Elephas maximus maximus) from Ceylon and/or SriLanka
- Indian elephant (Elephas maximus indicus) or also mainland elephant, whose habitat extends from India over Thailand, Viet Nam, Burma, China up to the Himalayas in Buthan.
- Sumatra elephant (Elephas maximus sumatranus) from the island Sumatra
- Borneo elephant (Elephas maximus borneensis) from the island Borneo
However, due to the traditional elephant husbandry in Asia, these subspecies have been mixed in such a way that there are hardly any more pure subspecies of the Asian elephant. Elephants were bridal gifts, spoils of war and commercial objects.
Are Asian elephants in danger?
Asian elephants are among the most endangered species. The population explosion in Asia and the associated deforestation of the forest and the subsequent agricultural use of the soil, has a fatal effect on the population of elephants.
Today’s population amounts to altogether approximately 50000 animals , of which about 15000 lives as work and tourist elephants. Often these animals are no longer used for breeding.
Asian elephants have been far less affected by the poaching crisis than their African relatives. That’s probably because only the bulls wear tusks. Asian ivory also brings in the market a little less. But that does not protect the elephants from the greed of the poachers.
Borneo elephants, also called dwarf-elephant, live in the north of Borneo, east of the Malaysian state of Sabah and high in the north of Kalimantan. It is estimated that there are only about 1200 animals.
They are threatened by the habitat loss caused by the growing palm oil plantations – and now also by poaching. The WWF is committed to preserving the lowland rainforests – not only for the dwarf-elephant, but also for its neighbors: the Borneo orangutan, the Sumatran rhinoceros and other species.
Another problem is the isolated remainder populations. The contact is missing to the small isolated groups of elephants to other herds. The important blood revitalization is missing, the “island populations” degenerates and becomes extinct.
Do elephants influence culture?
These subspecies were however so mixed by the traditional elephant attitude in Asia that there are probably hardly more pure subspecies of the Asian elephant. Elephants were bride gifts, war booty and commercial objects.
What distinguishes Asian elephants from African elephants?
More differences than between the 3 Asian subspecies exist between the Asian and African elephants.
Differences between the African and Asian elephants