Billy, the Bull
Billy is a 25-year-old male Asian elephant. He arrived at the Los Angeles Zoo in 1989 as a young calf from Malaysia, where he was born into a herd that was managed in a wildlife area. Billy enjoys bathing in his pool and standing underneath the waterfall in his new habitat.
Billy is 11 feet tall and weighs close to 13,000 pounds. His daily diet includes one bale of Sudan grass, a few flakes of grass hay, 50 pounds of carrots, 40 pounds of raw yams, six heads of romaine lettuce, six ears of corn, three bunches of celery, three honeydew melons, 10 pounds of apples, 10 pounds of bananas, five scoops of bran, one scoop of elephant supplement, and fresh browse.
Tina and Jewel, the Cows
Jewel and Tina, our two female Asian elephants, arrived at the Los Angeles Zoo in November 2010 from the San Diego Zoo. For the last year they have received expert husbandry and veterinary care in San Diego after they were brought to the Zoo by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in August 2009. They were both owned by several different circuses and entertainers before arriving at the San Diego Zoo. Our newest pachyderms are now fully recovered and enjoying their state-of-the-art home in Elephants of Asia.
Both Tina and Jewel were wild-born, sometime in the mid-to-late 1960s. Tina is estimated to be between 37 and 44 years old and weighs approximately 8,000 pounds. She loves to swim on hot days and puts her tail to the side when she is excited. Jewel is estimated to be between 42 and 47 years old and weighs approximately 7,200 pounds. She enjoys being hosed off and playing in water.
Tina and Jewel have lived together for almost 30 years and have a close relationship, illustrated by the squeaks and toots they make when they meet, even if they have only been separated for a few minutes.
Physical characteristics: Elephants are the world’s largest living land mammals. Male Asian elephants grow up to 11 feet tall and weigh six tons. Females are generally smaller. Compared to African elephants, Asian elephants are smaller overall, with noticeably smaller ears. They have just one “finger” on the top of trunk (Africans have two). Their foreheads are more rounded with two “lobes,” and their backs are more arched. Asian elephant skin is less wrinkled and may appear browner than their African counterparts. Whereas most male and female African elephants have tusks, only male Asian elephants have tusks; female Asian elephants have small, rudimentary “tushes.”
Strong, column-like limbs and massive bones support an elephant’s weight. The toes are cushioned by an elastic pad on each foot which expands under weight and contracts when weight is removed so that the foot may be withdrawn from muddy ground more easily. Elephants use their ears for hearing, communication, and cooling. Their ridged cheek teeth grind up coarse vegetation. Most males have a pair of tusks which are actually ever-growing upper incisors. The elephant possesses six sets of large molars in each half of each jaw, with four molars functional at a time. As molars wear down, new ones replace them and the old teeth fall out.
The elephant’s trunk is an elongation of its nose and upper lip. The trunk consists of six major muscle groups and over 100,000 muscle units, which give the trunk its tremendous strength and flexibility. The trunk is used in many ways: breathing, touching, smelling, bringing food to the mouth, spraying the body with water or dust, scratching, trumpeting, and moving objects. While swimming, an elephant can breathe through its trunk, held above the water much like a snorkel. Baby elephants even suck on their trunks just as human babies suck their thumbs. However, elephants cannot drink directly through their trunks; rather, water is drawn into the trunk like a straw, raised to the mouth, and then squirted out the nostrils. An elephant can draw up to two gallons of water into its trunk at a time.
Habitat: Asian elephants are found in forests and grasslands of India, Cambodia, China, Thailand, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Burma (Myanmar), Indonesia (Sumatra), Laos, Malaysia, Borneo (Sabah & Kalimantan), Nepal, Sri Lanka and Vietnam.
Social Life: Female elephants live in herds led by a dominant female known as the matriarch. The matriarch is usually the oldest and largest female. Elephants mature at nine to 14 years old. Females have one calf every four years and pregnancy lasts for 18 to 22 months! Cows stay with the herd for life. Bull elephants, however, leave the herd because they enter a condition called musth for the first time at 12 to 15 years of age. During musth, their testosterone levels are higher, glands on the sides of the head discharge an aromatic, sticky secretion, and they become more aggressive as they search for potential mates. Bulls live a mostly solitary life, joining the herd during the breeding seasons and forming loose association with other bachelor males.
Diet: Elephants eat grasses, shrubs, fruits, vegetables, and bark. Each day, they may consume 330 pounds of food and feed up to 16 hours.