The Asian elephant

THE ELEPHANT NATION

The Old Elephant Route

by Prajna Chowta

It is impossible to imagine India without elephants, as long as this enchanting animal species captivates the popular imagination. Nevertheless, the artificial presence of elephants in prominent tourist locales like, Rajasthan's Jaipur, Kerala's Guruvayur, yet another of Bihar's shrouded jewels, Sonepur, mask the precarious situation of this endangered species in general. In fact, recent research indicates that there are all in all 50,000 elephants in entire Asia and specialists doubt if the species will survive in the coming centuries.

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THE ART OF ELEPHANT KEEPING

Indra mounted on his elephant Airawat (Halebid Temple, Karnataka)

by Prajna Chowta

The old sculptures and carvings of India often represent the Hindu god Indra, "King of the Heavens", with a thunderbolt in his right hand and mounted on an elephant: Airawat. According to mythology, the great, white elephant was churned from the nectar of immortality, in the waters of the Ocean and had not two, but four tusks, just like the Gomphotera, another proboscidean (proboscis = trunk) that appeared on earth about 22 million years ago and vanished only one million years ago. Airawat may be an ancestral cousin of the present elephants, and reminds us that the elephant was at first the mount of gods and kings.

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Comparative DNA analysis of the Asian elephant populations

hastividyarnava

by Régis Debruyne, Ph.D. grade student - Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle

Though lying at the interface of many thematics of research (of which ecology, ethology, conservation biology and evolution can be cited), Asian elephants and their history remain mysterious. The first genetic analyses of their DNA sequences are recent (Fernando et al. 2000; Hartl et al. 1996) and left many questions unsolved. It is still unclear if the partitioning of populations due to forest fragmentation since the past centuries had notable effects on the genetic richness and diversity of the species. In certain parts of their historical range, elephant populations have dramatically declined in numbers, and it has now become an urgent matter to evaluate the impact of the action of Man.

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Patrick Donald Stracey - Author of "Elephant gold"

Patrick Donald Stracey

A tribute by his youngest brother, Eric

My brother Patrick should have been named Peter, for he was a rock in every sense of the word. He was the second of eleven children, two years younger than my sister Doreen and was born on 30 January 1906 in the East Coast town of Cocanada (now Kakinada), then in the Madras Presidency where my father was a forest officer. He was fourteen when I, the last of our large family of eleven children arrived in 1920, so he was already a young man when I first began to take note of him. My earliest impression was of a sturdy figure of medium height, a swarthy complexion, and a serious face made even more stern by the moustache he cultivated while still at school.

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The Old Elephant Route

The Old Elephant Route

by Prajna Chowta

The Old Elephant Route project was designed and conducted to study the past and present migration of wild elephants on the border area between Burma and north-eastern India as well as the viability of this corridor as a migratory route in a region which is located at the geographic heart of the elephant habitat in Asia.

For millions of years, and until the beginning of human civilisation, elephants were able to move freely in an uninterrupted territory that covered the whole of South Asia, from the mouth of the Indus river (today in Pakistant), to the whole of India and South East Asia and the south of China.

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The Andaman Elephants

The Andaman Elephant

by Prajna Chowta
based on details told by Mrs. Jemmy Ganapathy and the notes by Adrika Swaminathan.

Originally, the Andaman Islands did not have elephants. The elephants that can be seen today in the Indian archipelago of about 200 islands, located in the Bay of Bengal, south of Burma (today Myanmar), were brought from India during the British time for the exploitation of timber. In the course of time, the elephants reproduced themselves, some turned feral and are said to be wild. They are known to swim between islands and this unusual behavior allowed the most stunning footage of swimming elephants to have been filmed. All these facts are well known, but the circumstances in which the Andaman elephants reached the islands seemed forgotten and I thought, scarcely documented.

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