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Show us your Asian Elephant Pictures & Videos


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All the recent additions to the Show us Your Elephants thread got me thinking about adding some of the photos of Asian elephants I've taken in various places but rather than add them there I felt it would be appropriate to start a new thread.


So if anyone has photos or videos of elephants taken anywhere in Asia, please add them here.


The Asian Elephant Elephas maximus was once distributed from Syria in the West (until 100bc) to Vietnam in the East and from Northern China south to Indonesia. Now only scattered populations remain in India, Sri Lanka and South East Asia aside from being extinct in West Asia they have also become extinct in nearly all of China with just 300 or so remaining in the far south in Yunnan, they’re also extinct on the Indonesian Island of Java. Somewhere in between 2,000 to 3,000 of the subspecies Elephas maximas sumatranus still survive on the island of Sumatra and around 1,500 so called Bornean Pygmy elephants survive in the Malaysian province of Sabah on the island of Borneo with perhaps just a further 80 in the neighbouring Indonesian province of Kalimantan.


According to local legend Borneo’s elephants were introduced to the island in the 18th century by the Sultan of Sulu, though this might seem very unlikely, at the time it was not unusual for domestic elephants to be shipped from one place to another. However recent genetic analysis seems to have disproved this theory indicating that Borneo’s elephants have been separated from the those on Sumatra for around 300,000 yrs and are therefore clearly of Bornean origin. Although if this is the case and they’ve been on Borneo for that length of time it’s remarkable that they appear to have only ever occupied a relatively small of North-eastern Borneo and that no fossil remains of elephants (or virtually none) have been found on Borneo. This has led to the intriguing idea that the Sultan of Sulu legend could in fact be true that elephants are of introduced origin but that they were brought from Java where elephants are now extinct. At present their exact origins have not been determined for certain but what is clear is that they are unique to Borneo and that the name pygmy elephant is a misnomer as they are in fact on average no smaller than Asian elephants found on the mainland in West Malaysia.


Presumed Extinct Javan Elephants May Have Been Found Again In Borneo


Asian elephants are in decline everywhere their total population is often put at somewhere between 40-50,000 but really this is no more than a guess and the higher figure is almost certainly an over estimate.


More on Asian elephants


Unfortunately whoever created this IUCN redlist range map forgot to include the Borneo population


While the total remaining elephant population is not known what is known is that at least 50% of them are in India and one of the largest populations of Indian elephants Elephas maximus indicus is in the south west.


One of the best places to see them there is from a boat on Periyar Lake in Periyar NP in Kerala.







Edited by inyathi
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As with the previous photos these scanned slides were taken from a boat on Periyar Lake in Periyar NP in Kerala in the South of India in 2004












Edited by inyathi
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Whether in Africa or Asia I always think that elephants and water is a magical combination one I will never tire of, I could happily spend all day enjoying peaceful scenes like these.












Edited by inyathi
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Very interesting and these are really lovely pictures.


In 2004, when we were taking a canoe trip down the Kinabatangan River in Sabah, Borneo, a group of elephants came out of the forest and appeared at the water's edge. We were able to drift quite close to them while they were drinking. It was dusk so the photos I took with the camera I had back then just showed shadowy shapes but it was a magical experience all the same.

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Thanks @@Zim Girl that’s more Bornean elephants than I’ve ever seen


When I first visited Periyar we stayed at the Lake Palace Hotel (see my report India Tigers and other wildlife) one of the great advantages of staying there was having a private boat, we wouldn't have got to enjoy such a wonderful and peaceful view and I'm sure I wouldn't have got such good photos without our own boat. Another advantage was being able to watch wildlife from the hotel like this herd of elephants










Going back in 2007, I didn’t have the luxury of a private boat, so this next photo was taken from one of the communal tourist boats, even though the boats do get very crowded, you still get to see some of the wildlife.







Edited by inyathi
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The next largest elephant population in India is in the North East and one of the best places to see them there is in Kaziranga NP in Assam

















It's not unusual for bull Asian elephants to be tusk less, in India such bulls are known as makhnas



Current Status of Asian elephants in India

Edited by inyathi
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A few more from the jungles of Kaziranga









gallery_6520_318_182067.jpg      gallery_6520_318_275277.jpg







Edited by inyathi
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I wasn’t going to post any more photos from Kaziranga or India but then I saw these photos of the elephants in the lake and they reminded me so much of elephants crossing the Zambezi or perhaps the Nile that I decided I should add them.



Greylag Geese and Elephants Kaziranga NP




 Crossing the Lake Kaziranga NP



31768536344_665a742758_o.jpg Leaving the Lake



Before leaving India it's worth pointing out for anyone planning a trip that Nagarhole NP down in the south, is also an excellent place to see elephants (I haven't been there) and Corbett NP in the north in the Himalayan foothills, is another good place, I have been to Corbett but none of my elephant shots were worth posting.

Edited by inyathi
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With all the dire news coming out of Africa it’s easy to forget about the plight of Asia’s elephants, so I thought I add some more info before adding the next batch of Photos.


Across South East Asia elephants are in serious decline thanks to habitat destruction, poaching and persecution. There are very few big tuskers left anywhere in Asia most have been poached long ago and any younger bulls that would have replaced them have also most likely been poached. This might well explain why tuskless bulls are not uncommon. Since only the bulls have tusks in many populations the sex ratio has been seriously skewed by this constant poaching of bulls. In China to protect their last 300 or so elephants the penalty for ivory poaching is or certainly was death but this just meant that poachers would go after bulls over the border in neighbouring Laos or Burma instead.


While the bulls are poached for their ivory the cows are also poached either for meat or to capture their calves for domestication. Breeding and raising captive elephant calves is expensive, calves cannot be put to work until they are at least 14yrs old by which time they will have consumed a lot of food. Rather than go to the trouble and expense of trying to breed their animals’ elephant owners prefer to capture young wild elephants of the right age which can be trained and put to work straight away. In many places elephants are also killed in retaliation for raiding the crops that have sprung up in place of their natural habitat.


The result of all of this is that in Laos romantically know as Lan Xang ‘The Land of a Million Elephants’ there maybe only 600-800 wild elephants left.


Current Status of Elephants Lao PDR


In Cambodia the situation is even worse with just 200-300 remaining


Elephants in Cambodia


It will be no great surprise to anyone here that this is not nearly as bad as the situation in Vietnam where there may be as few as 70 wild elephants left, if that. Even if proper steps are taken to protect these last remaining elephants their populations are fragmented and are so small that they will likely suffer from inbreeding depression. Unless the Vietnamese take urgent action extinction can’t be too far away.


A Silent Crisis: Vietnam’s Elephants on the Verge of extinction


In Peninsular Malaysia the situation is at least much more positive and the population is estimated to be 1223-1677. Generally the response in Malaysia when elephants come into conflict with people is to capture them and translocate them to protected areas like Taman Negara.


Current Status of Asian Elephants in Peninsular Malaysia


The country with the largest elephant population in the region is Burma with perhaps 4000-5000; this is almost certainly thanks to the repressive Burmese regime which has helped keep outsiders from coming in and raping Burma’s forests. Unless the Burmese government can be persuaded to protect some of Asia’s last great forests the fear is that as the country opens up these forests will come under attack and elephants will decline as they have everywhere else.


Elephants in Burma


In Thailand there could be as many as 3,700 elephants or alternatively as few as 1,000, either way most of those that do remain are found in remote forests in the west of the country along the mountainous border with Burma and in Khao Yai NP just northeast of Bangkok.


Elephants in Thailand


At the moment elephants whether in Africa or Asia need all the help they can get.


Elephant Family Protecting Asian Elephants and Their Habitat

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Road block in Khao Yai NP Thailand



Bull Asian Elephant, Khao Yai NP Thailand by inyathi, on Flickr









After watching this bull for a little while, this Thai couple decided it would be best to turn around and go the other way. Although the elephants in Khao Yai must be pretty used to tourists, I don’t think driving up to one on a moped would be a particularly good idea.








Despite having tourists on either side, this guy was pretty mellow and after 25mins melted back into the jungle and disappeared.


Khao Yai NP Thailand



Khao Yai Guide

Edited by inyathi
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Another Khao Yai Road Block













This one was a slightly more impressive tusker


Edited by inyathi
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  • 2 weeks later...

Elephant viewing in Thailand can be just a little chaotic when people come across elephants the park rules tend to go out the window and everyone gets out of their cars for a closer look something that thankfully doesn’t generally happen in Africa. We encountered this breeding herd just before dusk when we arrived at the back of a traffic jam, there were guides and tourists local and foreign wandering up and down amongst the cars and elephants on both sides of the road so potentially the situation could have been quite dangerous. Fortunately despite all the people and the noise the elephants stayed very mellow. Our driver/guide excited at seeing so many elephants in Khao Yai walked up the line of cars so I followed him, well when in Rome or Thailand.


If you are going to get out of your car to photograph elephants it’s a good idea to use a reasonably long lens, I kept my distance staying by the cars taking the following photos with my 100-400mm, the first three shots were taken at 100mm and the fourth at 190mm. Meanwhile young English guy with a point & shoot was walking closer and closer to the cow and calves that you see in my fourth photo to get a better shot. Fearing he might get more than he bargained for, I and several guides called out “hey mate that’s quite close enough” or words to that effect and suggested that he might want to back up just a bit. While I wondered how anyone could be that stupid and not see the danger in approaching a cow elephant with calves, I did think that perhaps what I was doing was maybe slightly crazy. Then again there didn’t seem to be much point in staying in the minibus without a driver especially when it turned out there was a cow elephant standing in the jungle right next to the bus. I’ve been around elephants in Africa often enough that I didn’t feel I was in any danger but then again you can never predict what someone else might do to upset things and if the cow had charged that young idiot things could have turned pretty nasty.





















These are my last photos at least for a while, but if anyone else has photos of Asian elephants please do add them

Edited by inyathi
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@@inyathi, I love your pics of Asian elephants. They brought back many fond memories of Thailand, especially one in particular.


This is the elephant in Khao Yai we nicknamed Stomper. We didn't see it happen, but earlier in the day Stomper had literally walked over a tourist vehicle which had been parked in the last available space on the road. Unfortunately the tourist hadn't realize why the space was still open and parked directly in front of an elephant trail which blocked egress. Needless to say the vehicle was flattened and had to be towed out of the park.


And what happened to Stomper? Well, Stomper just continued being an elephant. I took this rather static video of Stomper while our guide sang the children's song "Five Elephants (Chang Chang Chang Chang Chang)". It was the juxtaposition of the two which delighted me.


Our guide had a very healthy respect for Asian elephants and kept us at a respectable distance especially when on foot. He would not let anyone get closer than he thought safe. He was an excellent guide.



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This is a young Pygmy Elephant calf I saw in Danum Valley in Borneo last Easter. We were quite lucky with our sightings and at one point were chased by a young bull who seemed to be playing a game with us, chasing then running away and chasing again... when he chased, we ran, fast! We and quite a number of other tourists, some of whom seemed incredibly brave (or stupid!) watched them for around 30 minutes and it was incredible how they moved around us so quietly leading to a few scary moments for some people when they found themselves to be too close; being on foot in a rainforest in the vicinity of an elephant you need to be very alert as even though they are the smallest of the elephant species, they have been known to kill. Even the lodge staff came out to see the elephants and it was so nice to see that they were as excited as the guests.




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@@Safari Cal


Thanks great shot I was hoping you might have a photo/s of Bornean elephants to add the closest I’ve been to one is some old dry dung and that didn’t merit a photograph

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Thanks @@inyathi, here's another few of shots from last year...







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  • 2 months later...
  • 1 year later...

I thought I would add to this thread about these wonderful animals - with a few more pictures of Borneo Pygmy Elephants

On a recent trip to Borneo (April 2015) we stayed at 2 lodges on the Kinabatangan River in Sabah.

Both lodges focus on river trips in small boats.


At the first lodge (Abai) we set off on our first trip, and within about 20 minutes





They dissapeared in and out of the forest


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At our second lodge (The Kinabatangan River Lodge) we were lucky to see some different groups of Pygmy Elephants




Collared female with baby (the collar was used to track migration routes)





We felt very privileged to see so many of these rare and beautiful animals

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~ @@TonyQ


Thank you for posting these wonderful images.

They're so sharp and clear, showing the animals in excellent light.

Pygmy elephants in Borneo? Wow!

Safaritalk the source of information which delights me every week!

Tom K.

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  • 1 year later...

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