The Asian elephant is the largest land mammal found in Asia. Also known as the Asiatic Elephant, it is the only living species of the genus Elephas.
It can be found throughout the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia, from India to Nepal, and Sumatra to Borneo.
An adult Asian elephant can weigh over 5,000 kg. They consume up to 150 kg of plant matter and can drink up to 200 litres of water per day.
The elephant’s trunk is a part of its nose and upper limb. It contains over 60,000 muscles.
Elephants are megaherbivores and excellent at dispersing seeds, making them one of the most important keystones for a forest to sustain.
Since 1986, the Asian elephant has been listed as ‘Endangered’ on the IUCN Red List, as the population has declined by at least 50 per cent over the last three elephant generations.
The demand for ivory in illegal trade has led to rampant poaching, killing more than 20,000 elephants every year worldwide. The Wildlife Crime Control Division of Wildlife Trust of India has conducted several successful operations, seizing over 674 kg of illegal elephant ivory.
It is dangerously threatened by loss of habitat and poaching. Habitat fragmentation caused by destruction of forests, logging, encroachment, slash-and-burn, shifting cultivation, and monoculture tree plantations has restricted their movements.
The Asian elephant is granted the highest legal protection, as a Schedule I protected species of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 of India. There is an absolute prohibition on the poaching, trafficking, and trading of elephants, inviting a hefty fine and jail time of up to seven years.
Wildlife Trust of India’s flagship project “Right of Passage” is intensively working on protecting and securing elephant corridors all over India. These corridors are linear patches of vegetation that link larger patches of forests. They help elephants freely move between different parts of the forest. More than 100 corridors have been identified to date.
WTI has also set up the country’s biggest wildlife rescue and rehabilitation facility, the CWRC, Assam, devoted to helping and conserving elephants.
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