Few visitors to the Zoo would skip a visit to see this fascinating group. Their home is the award-winning Trail of the Elephants, which allows the elephants considerable scope to roam and forage: it is estimated they travel as far (or further) than elephants living in natural non-extreme environments (6.21–15.00km/day vs. 5–10 km/day).
The Asian Elephant was once widespread throughout Asia. However, loss of habitat and poaching has forced remaining populations into heavily forested, inaccessible regions in south and South-East Asia. Countries in which the Asian Elephant may be found include Sri Lanka, Laos, Thailand, Burma, China, Malaysia, India, Indonesia (on the island of Sumatra) and Cambodia. There may be fewer than 53,000 animals remaining throughout Asia and the wild population is decreasing.
Three pregnancies have been achieved since Melbourne Zoo established the Cooperative Conservation Breeding Program upon the arrival of three young elephant cows from Thailand in November 2006. The aim of the breeding program is to create an insurance population of this endangered species. Melbourne Zoo is proud to be the home of the first female elephant born on our shores and the first elephant conceived through artificial insemination.
In the wild the Asian Elephant eats leaves, flowers, fruits, shrubs, grasses and roots. An adult elephant may eat up to 170kg of food, drink 90L of water, and produce up to 75kg of faeces per day. Herds of Asian Elephants occasionally feed on fruit trees growing on plantations bordering the forests, causing thousands of dollars of damage. To prevent this, guards patrol the boundaries of farms and use spotlights and fire crackers to scare the elephants away.
At Melbourne Zoo their diet includes carrots, apples, bread, bamboo, hay, lucerne and leaves.
- The female Asian Elephant reaches sexual maturity at 10 years of age
- Elephant tusks are a modified form of upper incisors: the front teeth that many animals use for cutting food
- The ears of the Asian Elephant assist in cooling the animal. Heat is circulated to blood vessels located close to the skin of the ears and is diffused into the air
- The trunk of the Asian Elephant is used for feeding, watering, smelling, touching, communicating, lifting, dusting and fighting
- The trunk of an Asian Elephant can hold up to 8.5L of water