An endangered giant: The difference between Asian and African elephants

Apr 16, 2019 | News

By Ding Qian – CGTN

As one of the most magnificent animals in the world, elephants don’t just have a huge body, they also have unusually large brains. They are very intelligent, can use tools to solve problems and recognize their own reflections in the mirror. They are also highly social, can communicate with each other and demonstrate empathy.

Elephant walking in the savannah, Ndutu Safari Lodge, Serengeti, Tanzania. /VCG Photo

Asian elephants and African elephants are two main species of elephant. But do you know how they’re different?  Here are five major points between the two species. 

1. As their names suggest, one point of difference is where they’re found. Asian elephants live in Southeast Asia, India and Nepal, while African elephants live in sub-Saharan Africa. Asian elephants are also smaller than their African cousins and have a shorter lifespan, around 60 years in the wild. 

A majestic African elephant running toward the camera. /VCG Photo

2. Besides the size, one of the most noticeable differences between African and Asian elephants is the shape of their ears. African elephants have ears which resemble the shape of the African continent, while the ears of Asian elephants are rounder and smaller.

Asian Elephant herd crossing forest track in Corbett National Park. /VCG Photo

3. Only male Asian elephants have large tusks; females and a small number of males grow smaller tusks called tushes. But African elephants have large tusks, no matter the gender.

A very close encounter with an Asian elephant. /VCG Photo

4. African elephants have two fingerlike features on their trunk while Asian elephants have one. Elephants use the trunk to breathe, smell, drink and grab things.

5. Asian elephants have been evaluated as “Endangered” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) since 1986. Their population has declined dramatically due to poaching and loss of habitat. African elephants seem to be in slightly better condition, listed as “Vulnerable” on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 

About ‘An endangered giant’

“An Endangered Giant” is a series of articles, photos, and videos about Asian elephants which is the only living species of the genus Elephas. It is also the largest living land animal in Asia.

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