|[Note Guidelines] Photographer's Note|
|During my trekking in a forest which is declare as tiger reserve at Thekkadi, Kerala, India, I had spotted Mother Elephant with her cute baby. Normally Mother Elephant is very dangerous when she has baby with her. When I spotted them at evening time the light is not enough and I have to hide my self also. This is a real thrill to take few images of wild Mother Elephant with her baby in a tiger forest. In forest of 777 sq. kms. there is a approx 1450 total wild elephant.|
The Asian or Asiatic (Elephas maximus) is the only living species of the genus Elephas and distributed in Southeast Asia from India in the west to Borneo in the east. Three subspecies are recognized — Elephas maximus from Sri Lanka, the Indian elephant E. m. indicus from mainland Asia, and E. m. sumatranus from the island of Sumatra. Asian elephants are the largest living land animal in Asia.
Since 1986, Elephas maximus has been listed as endangered by IUCN as the population has declined by at least 50% over the last three generations, estimated to be 60–75 years. The species is pre-eminently threatened by habitat loss, degradation and fragmentation. In 2003, the wild population was estimated at between 41,410 and 52,345 individuals.
Asian elephants are rather long-lived, with a maximum recorded life span of 86 years.
This animal is widely domesticated, and has been used in forestry in South and Southeast Asia for centuries and also for ceremonial purposes. Historical sources indicate that they were used during harvest seasons primarily for milling. Wild elephants attract tourist money to the areas where they can most readily be seen, but damage crops, and may enter villages to raid gardens.
In general, Asian elephants are smaller than African elephants and have the highest body point on the head. Their back is convex or level. Their ears are small with dorsal borders folded laterally. They have up to 20 pairs of ribs and 34 caudal vertebrae. Their feet have more nail-like structures than the ones of African elephants — five on each forefoot, and four on each hind foot.
Large bulls weigh up to 5,400 kg (12,000 lb) and are 3.2 m (10 ft) high at the shoulder. Females weigh up to 4,160 kg (9,200 lb) and reach 2.54 m (8.3 ft) at the shoulder. The skeleton constitutes about 15% of their body weight.
The sizes of wild Asian elephants have been exaggerated in the past. Record elephants may have measured as high as 3.7 m (12 ft) at the shoulder. Shoulder height is estimated using the rule of thumb of twice the forefoot circumference.
Asian elephants are highly intelligent and self-aware. They have a very large and highly convoluted neocortex, a trait also shared by humans, apes and certain dolphin species. Asian elephants have the greatest volume of cerebral cortex available for cognitive processing of all existing land animals. Elephants have a volume of cerebral cortex available for cognitive processing that exceeds that of any primate species, and extensive studies place elephants in the category of great apes in terms of cognitive abilities for tool use and tool making.
In the wild, elephant herds follow well-defined seasonal migration routes. These are made around the monsoon seasons, often between the wet and dry zones, and it is the task of the eldest elephant to remember and follow the traditional migration routes. When human farms are founded along these old routes there is often considerable damage done to crops, and it is common for elephants to be killed in the ensuing conflicts. The adult Asian Elephant has no natural predators, but young elephants may fall prey to tigers.
Elephants' life spans have been exaggerated in the past and live on average for 60 years in the wild and 80 in captivity. They eat 10% of their body weight each day, which for adults is between 170-200 kilograms of food per day. They need 80–200 litres of water a day, and use more for bathing. They sometimes scrape the soil for minerals. They sometimes eat their own feces if hungry.
Elephants use infra sound to communicate; this was first noted by the Indian naturalist M. Krishnan and later studied by Katharine Payne.
Bull elephants may form small groups known as 'bachelor herds', but bulls may also roam independently at various times. Bulls will fight one another to get access to estrous females. Males reach sexual maturity around age 12-15 (younger in captivity). By their late teens or early twenties, bulls undergo an annual phenomenon known as "musth". This is a period where the testosterone level is high (up to 100 times greater than non-musth periods) and they become extremely aggressive. Secretions containing pheromones occur during this period, from the paired temporal glands located on the head between the lateral edge of the eye and the base of the ear. At the height of musth, bulls also become urine incontinent, and will discharge urine continuously. Over time, their penises turns greyish/green, which has been termed 'green penis'.
Female elephants live in small groups. They have a matriarchal society, and the group is led by the oldest female. The herd consists of relatives. An individual reaches sexual maturity at 9–15 years of age. The gestation period is 18–22 months, and the female gives birth to one calf, or occasionally twins. The calf is fully developed by the 19th month but stays in the womb to grow so that it can reach its mother to feed. At birth, the calf weighs about 100 kg (220 lb), and is suckled for up to 2–3 years. Once a female gives birth, she usually does not breed again until the first calf is weaned, resulting in a 4-5 year birth interval. Females stay on with the herd, but mature males are chased away.
Their trunk is a multi-purpose prehensile organ and highly sensitive, innervated by the maxillary division of the trigeminal nerve and by the facial nerve. The tip of their trunk has one finger-like process. Elephants use their trunks for feeding, watering, dusting, smelling, touching, breathing, sound production and communication, washing, pinching, grasping, defense and offense. The trunk is an amazing organ of extreme dexterity: it is the single most important feature of an elephant, and gives the Order Proboscidea its name. The trunk is very strong , which is its ideal tool for eating. It is a fusion between the nose and upper lip, and consists of some 100,000 muscle units, which allow elephants to move their trunk with a wide range of movement.
The trunk can hold 8.5 litres. If they get in fights with wild monkeys they use their trunks to toss them or hit them against rocks or trees.
Tusks serve to dig for water, salt, and rocks, to debark trees, as leers for maneuvering fallen trees and branches, for work, for display, for marking trees, as weapon for offense and defense, as trunk-rests, as protection for the trunk. They are known to be right or left tusked.
Female Asian elephants usually lacks tusks; if tusks — in that case called "tushes" — are present, they are barely visible, and only seen when they open the mouth. The enamel plates of the molars are greater in number and closer together in Asian elephants. Some males may also lack tusks; these individuals are called "filsy makhnas", and are especially common among the Sri Lankan elephant population. Furthermore, the forehead has two hemispherical bulges, unlike the flat front of the African elephant. Unlike African elephants which rarely use their forefeet for anything other than digging or scraping soil, Asian elephants are more agile at using their feet in conjunction with the trunk for manipulating objects. They can sometimes be known for their violent behavior.
A record tusk described by George P. Sanderson measured 5 ft (1.5 m) along the curve, with a birth of 16 in (41 cm) at the point of emergence from the jaw, the weight being 1041⁄2 lb (47 kg). This was from an elephant killed by Sir V. Brooke and measured 8 ft (2.4 m) in length, and nearly 17 in (43 cm) in circumference, and weighed 90 lb (41 kg). The tusk's weight was, however, exceeded by the weight of a shorter tusk of about 6 ft (1.8 m) in length which weighed 100 lb (45 kg).
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