Asian Elephants consume a large variety of plants, grasses, trees and fruits including bamboo, legumes, bark and palms. By using their trunks they can obtain food anywhere from ground level to high up in the trees. If they can't reach it and they still want it, they just bulldoze the tree until it falls over. They can spend up to 16 hours a day feeding, consume 75-150kg of food per day and drink 80-160L of water a day.
Asian Elephants largely use lowland forests and grasslands below an altitude of 300m in India, Sri Lanka, Burma, Indonesia, Bhutan, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Malaysia, Nepal, Bangladesh and southern China. Across all these regions their natural habitat has been greatly reduced resulting in massive declines of wild populations.
Female elephants live in family units, which typically consist of closely-related adult cows and their immature offspring. Daughters remain with mothers once they are independent, but sons leave or are forced out during puberty to join a bull group or to be solitary. Young males band together in bachelor groups spending many years sparring to determine their dominance in the bull hierarchy. Once mature, male elephants will usually only socialise with herds when the females are reproductively cycling. Adult male elephants (bulls) go through periods of heightened sexual activity, increased aggressive and sexual behaviour, secretions from glands on the side of the head and urine dribbling. This is known as musth and is usually associated with increased secretion of testosterone that may last for periods of a few weeks to months.
Female elephants mature sexually between the ages of 8 – 10 and cycle every 14 - 17 weeks. Once pregnant, they give birth to a single calf (twins are very rare) after a gestation period of almost 22 months.
Elephants are extremely intelligent and social animals. They are active both day and night, often resting during the hottest part of the day. Elephants have a complex repertoire of communication that includes touching, body posturing and vocalising. Many of these sounds are ‘infrasounds’ and the pitch is below the range of human hearing. Infrasound can travel 3 to 5 km through the air and even further through ground vibrations. The elephants can pick up the vibrations through their feet.