It’s Asian Elephant Awareness Month, and we’ll take any chance we can get to highlight the endangered species! The Fort Worth Zoo has an Asian elephant herd of seven including a three-generational family, and they were recently treated to a new home here at the Zoo with the opening of Elephant Springs. Keep reading to learn more about the Zoo’s largest residents and the significance of this awareness month.
- Elephants regularly swim and play in water. In the wild, Asian elephants are known to swim from island to island in search of resources or mates.
- As Asian elephants age, they lose some pigmentation in their skin making them look more pink. The polka dot-like spots they develop (found mostly on the face and ears) are the remaining original pigment.
- Most male Asian elephants have large tusks, but other males and some females have smaller tusks called “tushes” that grow only as far as the upper lip.
- An elephant’s trunk can hold 2.5 gallons of water.
- In one day, an elephant can drink 50 gallons of water.
- An elephant’s gestation period is 22 months.
- There are an estimated 30,000 to 50,000 Asian elephants remaining in the wild.
- Elephants will toss dirt and sand onto their backs, which acts as a natural sunscreen and insect repellent to protect their skin.
- One way you can tell Asian and African elephants apart is by the shape of their ears. Asian elephant ears are smaller and almost look like the shape of India (African elephant ears are larger and look like the continent of Africa).
- Around 20 percent of the human population lives in or near the current range of Asian elephants.
Why Asian Elephant Awareness Month is important:
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) lists Asian elephants as endangered. The main threat to elephants is habitat loss and fragmentation caused by residential and commercial development. The loss of habitat results in a decrease in resources and an increase in human-elephant conflict. These conflicts often result in the elephant or human getting hurt. Additionally, there is always a threat of poaching for ivory or illegal trade of elephants.
In western Asia, Iran and most of China, elephants have disappeared completely.
How the Zoo helps:
The Fort Worth Zoo works closely with several accredited zoos breeding this endangered species to maintain a healthy and self-sustaining population that can be used to help against the rising tide of extinction.
Major conservation achievements like elephant health research, translocation monitoring and community conservation awareness would not be possible without the International Elephant Foundation (IEF). IEF was founded by zoo staff in 1998 and its mission is to support and operate conservation and education programs both in managed facilities and in the wild, with emphasis on management, protection and scientific research.
How you can help:
- Do not buy ivory or other elephant products made from elephant leather or hair. Sale of ivory is currently illegal in only seven states, with four additional states considering legislation.
- Support organizations that work toward eliminating illegal poaching and trade of ivory, protecting habitats and solving human-elephant conflicts.
- Be conscious of natural elephant habitats when purchasing goods. Coffee that is not fair-trade or shade-grown and products with palm oil are produced in plantations that wipe out natural elephant habitats.
- Adopt an elephant! Each adoption contributes to the care and feeding of the Zoo’s animals, like our elephants, for one full year.
- Come see our herd of seven Asian elephants: Rasha, Angel, Bluebonnet, Belle, Romeo, Colonel and Bowie. Learn about the herd and their counterparts in the wild at one of our keeper chats.