Picture by Saikat Kumar Basu

Elephants are a natural treasure and a big guardian of our natural ecosystems across the continents of Asia and Africa. Major wild elephant habitats are restricted to China, South and South East Asia, and Sun Saharan Africa. Three extant species of elephants are found on this planet: the African bush elephant, the African forest elephant, and the Asiatic elephant. The Asiatic species also have different subspecies established now through genetic and biogeographical studies. The three recognized subspecies of Asiatic elephants are the mainland Asiatic species (distributed across China, South and South East Asia, India having the largest wild population of Asiatic elephants), Sri Lankan subspecies (endemic to the island of Sri Lanka), and the Sumatran sup species restricted to the island of Sumatra (Indonesia). An extinct west Asian elephant species distributed across the middle east has also been reported.

Picture by : Saikat Kumar Basu

Elephants are exceptionally social animals and one of the largest land mammals on this planet. They usually live in herds of 10-150 members including adults, sub-adults, juveniles, and babies. Elephant society is predominantly matriarchal dominated by grandmothers, mothers, aunts, and sisters. Bull elephants live in isolation or small bachelor herds. Bull elephants may join a herd during the breeding season and leave the group in the post-breeding season. Bull elephants turn dangerously aggressive during the breeding season and can engage in fierce battles with other bulls to establish dominance abs mating rights. Fierce fights between bull elephants often result in serious injuries and deaths. Mothers are extremely protective of their babies and can fight to the death to defend them.

Elephants ate large herbivores and migratory mammals that cross both national and international boundaries. Elephants are restricted only to Yunnan province of China and Chittagong Hull Tracts in Bangladesh and are extinct in Pakistan. They are also found in Nepal, Bhutan, India, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Indonesia, and Malaysia. The Borneo elephants restricted to Sabha (Malaysia) and Kalimantan (Indonesia) have been questioned following advanced genetic studies to represent a separate subspecies in the future.

Picture by : Saikat Kumar Basu

Elephants are being targeted since the colonial period due to the lucrative ivory trade that has decimated their populations on both continents. With the global ban on the ivory trade, poaching has been bee successfully reduced to some extent. But much needs to be done. The poaching of elephants as a cheap source of bush meat and animal protein in some tribal communities, the hunt for elephant skin for making medicinal products and jewelry in China abs South East Asia and the illegal wildlife trade as well as trafficking have continued to dwindle the global elephant populations.

We need to protect decreasing populations of wild elephants from poaching and human exploitation. Elephant species in both the continents of Asia and Africa are being endangered due to habitat fragmentation, elephant-human conflicts, poaching, and illegal wildlife trade across China and parts of SE Asia and Africa. The elephant populations are decreasing at a steady pace and are currently restricted to different specialized ecosystem pockets and isolated corners in Asia and Africa. To save elephants from their journey towards extinction a comprehensive international conservation policy and implementation is necessary. Despite banning ivory across the globe, poaching has continued relentlessly across elephant habitats in South and South East Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.

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