Friday, December 31, 2010

Asiatic Elephants

Asiatic Elephant
(Elephas maximus)

  • Discription : The Asian Elephant is slightly smaller than its African relatives; the easiest way to distinguish the two is that the Asian elephant has smaller Ears. The Asian Elephant tends to grow to around 2 to 3.6 metres (6.6 to 11.8 ft) in height and 3,000–5,000 kilograms (6,600–11,000 lb) in weight. The Asian Elephant has other differences from its African relatives, including a more arched back than the African, one semi-prehensile "finger" at the tip of its trunk as opposed to two, four nails on each hind foot instead of three, and 19 pairs of ribs instead of 21. Also, unlike the African Elephant, the female Asian Elephant usually lacks tusks; if tusks — in that case called "tushes" — are present, they are barely visible, and only seen when the female opens her mouth. Asian elephants are highly intelligent and self-aware, and they have a very large and highly convoluted neocortex, a trait also shared by humans, apes and certain dolphin species. The sizes of elephants in the wild have been exaggerated in the past. However, record elephants may have measured as high as 3.7 metres (12 ft) at the shoulder.
  • Distribution and population: The Asian Elephant population is officially listed as highly endangered and is under threat across the whole of its current range. The situation is so serious that the elephant is in real danger of being extinct within three generations.

    Six thousand years ago the Asian elephant ranged over a vast area spreading from what is now modern day Iraq and Syria, across the whole swathe of the Indian sub continent, southeast Asia and up into central China. Large populations were also found on the islands of Sri Lanka, Indonesia and Borneo. It is reasonable to assume that elephant numbered in the millions. As human populations increased the elephant came under pressure and its range began to reduce but even in the 17th century the numbers of elephants were vast. We know for a fact that the Moghul Emperor Jehangir had 113,000 captive elephants in his Empire.

    No accurate figure are available for a hundred years ago but in Thailand alone it is estimated that there were over 100,000 elephants so extrapolating by taking Thailand’s current percentage of the population we can estimate that in 1900 there were as many as a million elephants across Asia. Today the total stand at between 38,534 and 52,566 wild elephants and 14,535 and 15,300 domesticated elephants in Asia with perhaps another 1,000 scattered around zoos in the rest of the world.

Asian elephant population figures

Monday, March 22, 2010

Nilgiri Tahr

Nilgiri Tahr
(Nilgiritragus hylocrius)

  • Discription: The Nilgiri Tahrs are stocky goats with short, coarse fur and a bristly mane. Males are larger than the females, and have a darker color when mature. Both sexes have curved horns, which are larger in the males, reaching up to 40 cm for males and 30 cm for females. Adult males weigh 80–100 kg and stand about 100 cm tall at the shoulder. Adult males develop a light grey area or "saddle" on their backs and are hence called "saddlebacks".

  • Distribution: Nilgiri tahr is endemic to the Nilgiri Hills and the Southern portion of Western Ghats in the state of Tamilnadu and Kerala in Southern India. It is the state animal of Tamil Nadu.

  • Habitat: These tahrs inhabit the open montane grasslands habitat of the South Western Ghats montane rain forests ecoregion. At elevations from 1200 to 2600 m (generally above 2000 m), the forests open into grasslands interspersed with pockets of stunted forests, known as Sholas. These grassland habitats are surrounded by dense forests at the lower elevations. The Nilgiri Tahrs formerly ranged over these grasslands in large herds, but hunting and poaching in the nineteenth century reduced their population to as few as 100 animals by the early 20th century. Since that time their populations have increased somewhat, and presently number about 2000 individuals. Their range extends over 400 km from north to south, and Eravikulam National Park is home to the largest population. The other significant concentration is in the Nilgiri Hills, with smaller populations in the Anamalai Hills,Periyar National Park, Palni Hills and other pockets in the Western Ghats south of Eravikulam, almost to India's southern tip.