The Indian elephant (Elephas maximus indicus) is a subspecies of the Asian elephant found on the Asian mainland. Other subspecies of Asian elephants are found on the islands of Sri Lanka and Sumatra.
Indian elephants are considered an endangered species. These elephants once roamed across most of Asia, but their range has been reduced to about five percent of its original area and is highly fragmented. The habitats of the Indian elephant are varied, but all are within the tropical region. They can live in grasslands and a variety of forests, including scrub forests, tropical evergreen forests, and deciduous forests. Elephants are herbivores and spend up to 19 hours a day grazing on a variety of plants.
Indian elephants are a prime example of the conflicts that can occur between humans and animals when they compete for the same resources. These elephants live in one of the most densely populated parts of the world, where the need for agricultural land continues to grow with the human population. At the same time, elephants are nomadic and range over large areas, which are increasingly constricted by human activity. This creates conflict situations, where elephants and humans are forced into proximity of each other. Elephants, who are highly social and travel in herds, can quickly trample agricultural fields as they travel over them or stop to graze on the crops growing there. Farmers retaliate by poaching the animals or removing them to very small, isolated pockets of land, surrounded by human habitations. Every year, hundreds of elephants and people are killed in these conflicts.
Indian elephants are threatened by habitat loss, degradation, and fragmentation, as well as poaching. Approaches to conservation of this species focus on maintaining their remaining habitat, creating corridors to connect fragmented areas, and improving laws and protections. But mitigating human-elephant conflicts is also a key part of any effort to conserve these unique creatures.
Reducing human-elephant conflict is a key part of conserving the Indian elephants. What are some ways this could be done?
The Indian elephant is not the only species in conflict with humans. What are some other examples?
The photographer, Joel Sartore, said “It is folly to think that we can destroy one species and ecosystem after another and not affect humanity. When we save species, we’re actually saving ourselves.” What do you think he meant by this? How would the loss of the Indian elephant affect humans?
Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry competition Noun
contest between organisms for resources, recognition, or group or social status.
management of a natural resource to prevent exploitation, destruction, or neglect.
Encyclopedic Entry: conservation crop Noun
Encyclopedic Entry: crop endangered species Noun
organism threatened with extinction.
Encyclopedic Entry: endangered species fragmentation Noun
breaking up of large habitats into smaller, isolated chunks. Fragmentation is one of the main forms of habitat destruction.
environment where an organism lives throughout the year or for shorter periods of time.
Encyclopedic Entry: habitat habitat loss Noun
the reduction or destruction of an ecosystem, making it less able to support its native species.
organism that eats mainly plants and other producers.
Encyclopedic Entry: herbivore human-wildlife conflict Noun
interaction between an animal and a human that results in a negative outcome for either the animal, its habitat, or the human.
to hunt, trap, or fish illegally.
available supply of materials, goods, or services. Resources can be natural or human.
(subsp.) group of organisms within a single species, often distinguished by geographic isolation.