THE INDIAN ELEPHANT.
(Elephas indicus.)


The Indian Elephant (Elephas indicus) inhabits the wooded parts of Southern Asia from the Himalayas to the Indian Ocean, and is found throughout Burmah, Siam and the Malay Peninsula. It differs from the African Elephant in having much smaller ears, a concave instead of convex forehead, smaller tusks, and in the possession of a finger on the end of the proboscis which, working against a tubercle on the lower part of the trunk, serves many of the purposes of the human hand.

The proboscis, which is an extension and enlargement of the nose and upper lip, is composed of as many as forty thousand interlacing muscles, and is capable of the most delicate and varied manipulation, At times it is used to strip twigs and leaves from overhanging trees, or again to uproot bamboo shoots or to pluck grass and plants from the ground, carrying all to the ever-grinding jaws behind. By sucking it full of water the Elephant may give himself a shower bath or squirt water into his mouth or even over people who offend him.

The presence of the trunk and tusks has greatly modified the cranium of the Elephant. Although a very intelligent animal, his brain is relatively small in proportion to his immense size. The great, rounded humps which crown an Elephants head are composed of bony air cells, and their function is to provide surface for the supporting muscles of the trunk. So thick are these bony processes that they will stop a rifle ball; and on the other hand Elephants have been shot through the skull without the least injury to the brain.

     

The tusks, which are often lacking in Asiatic Elephants, especially in the females, are the incisors of the upper jaw, grown straight out, and serve primarily as weapons, although in domesticated animals they are used to dig and lift and to carry heavy burdens. Besides these teeth the Elephant has four large molars, two in each jaw, and he is able to chew from four to eight hundred pounds of green fodder a day with them, In a wild state the Elephants wander about in bands through the forests, following their leader from feeding grounds to water, and concern themselves largely with eating and drinking and escaping from their ,enemies. The young weigh about two hundred pounds at birth, and attain to over eight thousand pounds at thirty years, when they have reached maturity. At sixty an Elephant is counted in his prime, and many live to be a hundred or even a hundred and fifty years old. Eleven feet is the extreme height of the Asiatic Elephant. His specific gravity is so great that in swimming rivers his whole body disappears below the surface; but this gives him no trouble, as he breathes by thrusting the tip of his trunk above the water and can surge up enough to get one eye out when he wishes to see where he is going.

The eyes are small and, probably on account of living in the forest so much, they are not very sharp-sighted. This defect is counterbalanced by very acute hearing and sense of smell. In browsing the Elephant is probably guided altogether by touch and his sense of smell; and in a dark forest even very sharp eyes are of little value either in selecting food or detecting enemies, especially in an animal with so short and heavy a neck.

Continue to Page 2 of 2


Back to September 1901 Contents

Home | Site Introduction | Survival Needs | Bird Identifications
Gallery & Profiles | Habitats of Birds | Bird Migration | Odds & Ends | Resources
Birds and Nature Magazine | Search