Asian Elephant

Elephas maximus

From trunk to toe, Asia’s largest land mammal displays some amazing adaptations to life as a forest-dwelling herbivore. It is most famous for its trunk, which is indispensable for feeding, drinking, smelling, touching, communicating, and bathing. Asian elephants live in family groups called herds that are led by older, experienced females.

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These matriarchs are responsible for the herd’s safety, as well as for providing food and shelter for its members. Females maintain a life-long connection to the herd, while males leave the herd when they reach puberty. They spend most of their time alone, or in bachelor groups. During musth, a period of heightened testosterone, bulls compete with other for mating opportunities. Generally, the older and larger bulls dominate the breeding.

  • An elephant drinks up to 40 gallons of water (enough to fill a bathtub) and eats several hundred pounds of food each day.
  • Since they don’t sweat, elephants flap their large, thin ears to cool down the blood vessels across the ear, which then circulates throughout the body.
  • An elephant essentially walks on tiptoe since the foot bones rest on a cushiony pad of fatty tissue, a built-in shock absorber.
  • Elephants communicate through sound from the loud, well-known trumpeting to infrasonic calls that humans cannot hear.

Learn more: The Cincinnati Zoo is committed to helping to save the world’s largest land mammals.

Fact File

Species @ Risk Image
Species Survival Plan Image
where to see themWhere to see them: Elephant Reserve
heightHeight: Up to 10 ft
weightWeight: Up to 11,000 lbs
life expectancyLife Expectancy: 47 yrs
habitatHabitat: Forest
dietDiet: Grasses, leaves, barks, and fruits
exclamationRisk Status: Species at Risk (IUCN—Endangered)