Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Asian Elephant

Venerated for its strength and longetivity throughout history, the Asian elephant is now in a precarious position, with little more than 5% of its original habitat left. The major threats to Asian elephants are loss of habitat and the resultant human-elephant conflict. Asian elephants are disappearing from vast areas where they were once plentiful. Their habitat is shrinking fast and wild elephant populations are mostly small, isolated, and unable to mingle as ancient migratory routes are cut off by human settlements. For example, the number of elephants in Vietnam has declined from about 1,000 in 1990 to fewer than 100 in 2002.

Elephants need large, intact areas of forest to survive. Since a substantial proportion of the world's population live in or near the present range of the Asian elephant, this inevitably leads to elephant-human conflict. Incidents of elephants raiding crops and villages are on the rise. This causes losses to human property and, sometimes, human lives. Retaliation by villagers often results in killings of these elephants. Experts already consider such confrontations to be the leading cause of elephant deaths in Asia.

Although levels of poaching have been lower in Asia than in Africa, because only male Asian elephants have tusks, proportions of their population are being dramatically reduced in some regions. Some areas of southern India report male:female ratios as low as 1:100. From 1995 to 1996, poaching of Asian elephants for hide, meat and ivory increased sharply. The illegal trade in live elephants, ivory and hides across the Thai-Myanmar border has also become a serious conservation problem.

The capture of wild elephants for domestic use has also become a threat to wild populations where numbers have been seriously reduced. India, Vietnam, and Myanmar have banned capture in order to conserve their wild herds, but in Myanmar elephants are still caught each year for the timber industry or the illegal wildlife trade. Unfortunately, crude capture methods have led to a high mortality level. Efforts are being made not only to improve safety but also to encourage captive breeding rather than taking from the wild. With nearly 30% of the remaining Asian elephants in captivity, attention needs to be paid to improved care and, where appropriate, reintroduction of individuals into the wild.

Common Name: Asian elephant

Scientific Name: Elephas maximus

Status: Endangered

Population: 35,000 to 50,000 in the wild

Lifespan: Believed to be capable of living up to 70 years

Range: Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Vietnam

Threats: Habitat loss and fragmentation; poaching for ivory and body parts; retribution killing for destruction of property and crops; capture for domestication

Save Them!
Never buy ivory, even if it appears to be antique.
Help reduce forest clearance by only purchasing Forest Stewardship Council-certified wood products, recycling and using recycled materials.
Buy palm oil products sourced from suitable plantations.
Elephant Care International


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