Tierpark Berlin’s smallest pachyderm was born on New Year’s Day to mom, Kewa. He has become a popular resident, and with the help of the public, the little bull calf was recently given a name. More than 4,000 proposals were made, and the new calf’s name is---Edgar!
Edgar is one of seven Asian Elephants at Tierpark Berlin and spends his days under the care and supervision of his 32-year-old mother and older sisters. Ankhor (also 32-years-old) is the father of the little elephant, and has lived at the Prague Zoo since August 2014.
The Asian or Asiatic Elephant (Elephas maximus) is the only living species of the genus Elephas and is distributed in Southeast Asia from India in the west to Borneo in the east. Three subspecies are recognized: E. m. maximus from Sri Lanka, the E. m. indicus from mainland Asia, and E. m. sumatranus from the island of Sumatra. Asian Elephants are the largest living land animals in Asia.
Since 1986, the Asian Elephant has been listed as “Endangered” on the IUCN Red List. The population has declined by at least 50% over the last three generations, estimated to be 60–75 years. Asian Elephants are primarily threatened by degradation, fragmentation and loss of habitat, and poaching.
The Asian Elephant is smaller than the African Elephant and has the highest body point on the head. The back is convex or level. The ears are small with dorsal borders folded laterally, and it has up to 20 pairs of ribs and 34 caudal vertebrae. The feet have more nail-like structures than those of African elephant: five on each forefoot, and four on each hind foot.
On average, the shoulder height of males rarely exceeds 2.75 m (9.0 ft) and that of the females, 2.4 m (7.9 ft). Average shoulder height of females is 2.4 m (7.9 ft), and average weight is 2.7 t (3.0 short tons), while average shoulder height of males is 2.75 m (9.0 ft), and average weight is 4 t (4.4 short tons).
Asian Elephants are highly intelligent and self-aware. They have a very large and highly convoluted neocortex; a trait also shared by humans, apes and certain dolphin species. Elephants have a greater volume of cerebral cortex available for cognitive processing than all other existing land animals, and extensive studies place elephants in the category of great apes in terms of cognitive abilities for tool use and tool making. They exhibit a wide variety of behaviors, including those associated with grief, learning, mothering, mimicry, play, altruism, use of tools, compassion, cooperation, self-awareness, memory, and language.
Elephants are crepuscular, and they are classified as mega herbivores---consuming up to 150 kg (330 lb) of plant matter per day. They are generalist feeders, and both grazers and browsers, and were recorded to feed on 112 different plant species, most commonly of the order Malvales, and the legume, palm, sedge and true grass families. They browse more in the dry season with bark constituting a major part of their diet in the cool part of that season. They drink at least once a day and are never far from a permanent source of fresh water. They need 80–200 liters of water a day and use even more for bathing. At times, they scrape the soil for clay or minerals.
Adult females and calves may move about together as groups, but adult males disperse from their mothers upon reaching adolescence. Bull elephants may be solitary or form temporary 'bachelor groups'.
Cow-calf unit sizes generally tend to be small, typically consisting of three adult females, which are most likely related, and their offspring; however, larger groups containing as many as 15 adult females may occur. There can also be seasonal aggregations containing 100 individuals at a time, including calves and sub-adults. Until recently, Asian Elephants, like African Elephants, were thought to typically follow the leadership of older adult females, or matriarchs, but females can form extensive and very fluid social networks, with individual variation in the degree of gregariousness.
Elephants are able to distinguish low amplitude sounds. They use infrasound to communicate.
Bulls will fight one another to get access to oestrous females. Strong fights over access to females are extremely rare. Bulls reach sexual maturity around the age of 12–15. Between the age of 10 and 20 years, bulls undergo an annual phenomenon known as "musth". This is a period where the testosterone level is up to 100 times greater than nonmusth periods, and they become extremely aggressive. Secretions containing pheromones occur during this period, from the paired temporal glands located on the head between the lateral edge of the eye and the base of the ear.
The gestation period is 18–22 months, and the female gives birth to one calf, occasionally twins. The calf is fully developed by the 19th month, but stays in the womb to grow so that it can reach its mother to feed. At birth, the calf weighs about 100 kg (220 lb), and is suckled for up to three years. Once a female gives birth, she usually does not breed again until the first calf is weaned, resulting in a 4- to 5-year birth interval. Females stay on with the herd, but mature males are chased away.
Asiatic Elephants reach adulthood at 17 years of age in both sexes. Elephants' life expectancy has been exaggerated in the past; they live on average for 60 years in the wild and 80 in captivity.
According to the IUCN, “The most important conservation priorities for the Asian Elephant are: 1) conservation of the elephant's habitat and maintaining habitat connectivity by securing corridors; 2) the management of human–elephant conflicts as part of an integrated land-use policy that recognizes elephants as economic assets from which local people need to benefit or at least no suffer; 3) better protection to the species through improved legislation and law enforcement, improved and enhanced field patrolling, and regulating/curbing trade in ivory and other elephant products. Monitoring of conservation interventions is also needed to assess the success or failure of the interventions so that adjustments can be made as necessary (i.e. adaptive management). Reliable estimation of population size and trends will be needed as part of this monitoring and adaptive management approach.”