This is one of the two genus of elephants that exist, the Indian or sometimes called the Asian elephant - the other being the African. The easiest way to differentiate between the two is the size of the ears. Elephants ears are loaded with blood vessels and by flapping their ears they create a breeze which cools the surface of the ear and the blood within. African elephants live in a more southernly hot climate than their Asian relatives and therefore have bigger ears with a much larger surface area to aid in the cooling. Adult Asian elephants have two protruding bumps similar to brow ridges. In the African genus both male and female adults have tusks while, usually only the males of Asian elephants have tusks. They’ve recently been removed from the invalid order pachydermata so referring to them as pachyderms is no longer scientifically correct. I won’t however correct Colonel Hathi from the The Jungle Book because “We’re a cracker-jack brigade on a elephantidae parade” just doesn’t roll off the tongue.
Elephants are a symbol of wisdom and are well known for their intelligence which is thought to be on par with dolphins and primates. It is often thought that in Asia, elephants have been domesticated. This is a falsehood as all working elephants have been trained, not domesticated. Typically working elephants are female as the males can be more aggressive and unpredictable. Elephants were originally used in warfare but are now utilized as a more environmentally friendly way of safari wildlife viewing. Elephant-top safaris are safer for viewing tigers and negate the need for roads and gas powered vehicles in game preserves and parks. Elephants that are involved in logging allow the targeted selection of specific trees to avoid clear cutting, building logging roads and truck intrusion.
A mahout or elephant “driver” builds a special bond with their elephant. With a life span of 50 to 70 years this is often a life long relationship where the elephant becomes a member of the family. Teen aged boys are paired with elephant calfs as they learn and grow together under the tutelage of an older mahout and his elephant.
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