Sri Lankan Elephant, Elephas maximus maximus

The Sri Lankan elephant (Elephas maximus maximus) is a subspecies of the Asian elephant that can be found in Sri Lanka. This species resides in lowland dry zone habitats in eastern, southeastern, and northern areas of Sri Lanka. It reaches an average height between 6.6 and 11 feet at the shoulders and weight between 4,400 and 12,000 pounds. It is darker in color than the other two subspecies of the Asian elephant and has more depigmentation its belly, face, ears, and trunk. Only seven percent of all male Sri Lankan elephants grow tusks.

The Sri Lankan elephant is an herbivore that feeds on many types of plant materials, consuming up to 330 pounds of food a day. One study showed that a group of elephants could feed on 116 species of plant, of which more than half were non-tree materials including shrubs, grass, and herbs.

Between the years of 1990 and 1994, armed combat in Sri Lanka caused the deaths of 261 elephants by gunshot wounds, land mine wounds, or by poaching. Although poaching was once a threat to this subspecies, the low number of tuskers, elephants that have tusks, within its population numbers is thought to decrease the threat of poaching. The main threat to this elephant and many other is habitat loss caused by human encroachment. As of 2011, its population number was estimated to be 5,879 individuals. Conservation efforts for elephants focus on preserving as many individuals as possible, as well as their habitat. The Sri Lankan elephant does occur in some protected areas and it appears on the IUCN Red List with a conservation status of “Endangered.”

Image Caption: Elephants at Pinnawala, Sri Lanka. Credit: Bernard Gagnon/Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)