From trunk to toe, the Asian elephant (Elephas maximus), 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. Indian elephants live in family groups called herds that are led by older, experienced females. 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.
- Where to see them: India and surrounding countries
- Height: Up to 10 ft
- Weight: Up to 11,000 lbs
- Lifespan: About 45 yrs
- Habitat: Forest
- Diet: Grasses, leaves, barks, and fruits
- Risk Status: Species at Risk (IUCN—Endangered)