12 May Asian Elephants
There are currently only two kinds of elephants on our planet: the African elephant and the Indian or Asian elephant.
The two types are easily distinguished.
Elephants use their ears to dispense body heat, the larger the ears, the more space they have for body heat. In the forests of Asia it is not too hot like in the African savanna, therefore Asians one need less body heat, with the result that their ears are smaller.
Female and male of the African elephants have both tusks, in Asia only the male have tusks.
In addition, the Asian elephant has four front and three rear toes, while the African one has a toe more in each foot.
However, the main difference is reflected in the most important tool of them – the trunk. With his trunk he can touch, smell, absorb water, pluck leaves and defend himself in an emergency. Both species of elephants have so called ‘fingers’ at the end of their trunk: the Asian has one, the African two trunk finger. The reason for this is that there is not so much food in Africa as we have here in Asia. In Africa, the elephants must pick every small leaf from the tree. We could say that the Asian elephant lives here in a real elephant-paradise, in the jungle there is everywhere food for them. Therefore, one finger is enough.
There are many more differences between the two species, Asian elephants have a head that looks like a heart and African a round one. The skin of both creatures is not the same: the Asian have a softer skin, what still feels very rough for us.
Elephants in Thailand
In Thailand, the number of this animals has decreased dramatically with the lost of their natural habitat by the destroying of forests. Currently there are only about 3500 – 6000 in this country. About half of them live together with a mahout, an elephant leader in elephant camps. A mahout takes care of his elephant a lifetime and must ensure that the elephant has enough food. They have great hunger, they eat around 200kg – 300kg food a day and drink 100-150 liters of water. The daily diet is equivalent to about one-tenth of his body weight. Because elephants have a relatively small stomach, you can see them excrete very often.
The mahout can teach his elephant up to 60 commands during the first years. The two communicate with each other in various ways, for example, by the voice of the mahout. Also, the mahout uses his feet when he is sitting on the head of his elephant to give instructions in which direction he has to go.
Usually elephants are herd animals. The females live together in a large herd and the oldest female is the leader. She is responsible for the rest of the group up to the weakest member. The elephants males, however, are loner. Therefore, the reproduction of elephants is rather limited in the wild.
Elephants are quite intelligent animals, as they have a really amazing memory and a very well developed sense of smell.
Because elephants have a very high value, there is even a national memorial day in honor of them in Thailand, on 13 March. Elephants are revered in Thai culture and are regarded as symbols of good luck. If a elephant dies he gets a nice funeral with an elaborate ceremony in which monks are present. A white elephant was once the emblem of the then Kingdom of Siam.