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Asian Elephant Awareness Month

At the OKC Zoo, Go Wild!

ASIAN ELEPHANT AWARENESS MONTH

Zoo Elephant Family

The Oklahoma City Zoo and Botanical Garden and the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) are kicking off a month-long campaign to raise awareness of the plight of Asian elephants and to empower the public to take action to help save the endangered species. The inaugural Asian Elephant Awareness Month features activities at the Zoo, a community conservation event and an engaging social media campaign (#TONSoflove) that will give wildlife fans ample opportunities to show their love for Asian elephants.

Tons of Love

Asian elephants face unique challenges compared to other elephant species. They are much more susceptible to elephant endotheliotropic herpesvirus (EEHV), a fast-moving virus with a 60% fatality rate. Asian elephant populations in the wild have fallen below 40,000 (roughly equivalent to the human population of Yukon, Oklahoma) according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, which classifies the species as endangered. African elephant populations are 10 times more abundant with about 500,000 individuals in the wild. The 13 nations that make up the natural habitat of Asian elephants contain the densest human population on the planet and, as a result, elephants’ room to roam has been reduced by 85% in 40 years. Poaching for ivory is a major threat to all elephant species, but because only male Asian elephants have tusks, illegal hunting has created a scarcity of males and a lack of genetic diversity in some wild populations.

ASIAN ELEPHANT FACTS

  • While wild African elephant populations are rebounding in some areas and estimated at 400,000-700,000, the number of Asian elephants remaining in the wild is only 40,000-50,000 and the population trend for this endangered species is decreasing.
  • Asian elephants live in a part of the world with the densest human population. Current Asian elephant range has been reduced by 85%. 
  •  Female Asian elephants don’t have tusks, so males are disproportionately affected by poaching. This has created a scarcity of males and could result in a long-term lack of genetic diversity in the remaining wild population.
  •  The biggest threats to Asian elephants include human conflict as a result of habitat loss and poaching for ivory tusks, skin and meat.
  •  Crop cultivation, mining for iron ore and flooding by hydroelectric projects have also acted to diminish the large tracts of land required by elephants for adequate food supplies. 
  •  Elephants require larger areas of habitat than most other mammals, and thus are one of the first species to be impacted by habitat destruction and fragmentation.
  • Compared to their slightly larger African elephant cousins, Asian elephants are a bit more petite and have smaller, rounded ears.
  • More than a nose-an elephant’s trunk has many functions and is used for communicating, smelling, breathing, trumpeting, drinking and picking things up, especially food! 
  •  At 22 months, elephants have longer pregnancies than any other mammal. At birth, calves weigh around 200 pounds and stand three feet tall.
  •  While most mammals go through only two sets of teeth in their lifetimes, elephants go through SIX!
  •  Adult male Asian elephants are about 12 feet tall and weigh up to 11,000 pounds. Females are a few thousand pounds lighter.
  • Asian elephant trunks contain about 40,000 different muscles and possess a fingerlike “projection” that they can use to grab small items.

AZA-zoos, animal caretakers and all wildlife fans are encouraged to share their love of Asian elephants on social media with #TONSoflove. To provide a visual signal unifying the posts, participants are encouraged to hold their hands in the shape of a heart and use that heart to frame an el-fie (elephant selfie). Fans are asked to include the #TONSoflove and reasons why they love Asian elephants in their photo captions. 

 Asian Elephant AZA SAFE

 

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