Fast Fact Attack: Endangered Species No. 77 – The Northern Brown Howler


Brown howler monkey (Alouatta guariba)

Photographer – Peter Schoen

“We are living on the planet as if we have another one to go to”
Terry Swearingen

If you have ever been lucky enough to have heard a howler monkey calling in the wild, you will know how it got its name.  Arguably one of the loudest animals on the planet, they can be heard up to three miles away through the dense jungle.  Alexander von Humboldt said about howler monkeys, “their eyes, voice, and gait are indicative of melancholy”.  The howlers in this clip may not be of the sub-species guariba guariba, but the sound is typical of the species in general.  And, believe me, this is not something you need to take you by surprise in the dark.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) lists most of these sedentary, arboreal howler monkeys (fifteen species) as threatened, due to human activities such as ceaseless hunting for bush meat, and habitat loss and degradation.  But, for the most part, the howlers are still fairly plentiful, with the exception of the Mexican howler (Alouatta palliata mexicana – a sub-species of the mantled howler) and today’s highlighted species, the northern brown howler (Alouatta guariba guariba).  They have both suffered to the point of being driven to near extinction.

Howler monkeysHowler monkeys are a large and inexpensive source of protein.  One monkey could easily feed a family of four.  And, they are slow and docile, which makes them easy prey.  Then, there are the usual illegal logging activities and other forms of human encroachment that we see everywhere across the globe.  The locations change, but the threats remain the same.

Howlers are not only large themselves, but they are also among the largest of the New World monkeys.  They range in bodily height from two to three feet.  Added to that, they have extremely long, prehensile tails which can measure anything from three feet to an astounding three times the size of the monkey itself.  This tail is invaluable to the New World monkeys.  They use it to travel through the branches and can wrap it round and swing freely to pluck leaves and fruit with their hands.

Another helpful augmentation of the howlers is their incredibly keen sense of smell. They have short stumpy, round noses which Howler monkey (Alouatta guariba) in Santa Maria de Jetiba, Brazil.can sniff out nourishment (the nostrils have sensory hairs inside) at over two to three miles.  Possibly no coincidence that they can be heard that far away as well.

A further adaptation is the molars, specially designed to shear through tougher leaves.

But, it doesn’t end there.  These marvellous monkeys are also blessed with trichromatic colour vision, which is thought to have developed in the species to allow selection of the very best leaves available.

One last staggering attribute is, of course, that voice.  A combination of large throat with specialised vocal chords and larynx produces a whole range of growls, barks, howls and roars.  This ability is unique to the howler species.

Howler monkeys are slow-moving folivores.  They spend most of the daylight hours relaxing in the trees.  The rest of their time is shared between eating, travelling and grooming. They move quadrupedally along the tops of branches, using their hands and their long, strong tails.  They live in groups of four or five.  Occasionally there are more. One dominant male usually rules the troop.

Baby howler monkey at the Sloth Sanctuary, Costa Rica by Jonathan LeyHowler monkeys do not have a specific breeding season, but females are only able to produce offspring every twenty-two months.  One infant will be born as a result of the liaison, after a gestation period of six months.  Most infants are weaned at one year, and reach maturity at five years (male) and approximately three and a half years (female).

The species, brown howler monkey (Alouatta guariba), lives in forests in south-eastern Brazil and far north-eastern Argentina.  There are two sub-species; today’s featured northern brown howler (Alouatta guariba guariba), listed as ‘critically endangered’, and the southern brown howler (Alouatta guariba clamitans) listed as ‘of least concern’.

Habitat
Sub-montane, montane and lowland forests.
Where
Brazil:  The Northern brown howler is confined to a small area north of the  Rio Jequitinhonha.  The Jequitinhonha flows through the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais.
What they eat
Mature leaves, though younger leaves are preferred.  Mature fruit is also an important part of the diet.  And, they will also eat, buds, flowers, and nuts.
Threats
Hunting and  deforestation, hunting being the larger threat as they are ale to  survive in small fragments of forest if they are left alone by hunters.  They are both susceptible to, and carriers of, disease.
Status: Critically Endangered
The Northern brown howler (Alouatta guariba guariba), is listed on the  IUCN Red List of Threatened Species  as Critically Endangered.  It has been on the critical list since 1996.  It is also protected by  Cites Appendix 11.  Little over two hundred of the species still survive in the wild.  I have been unable to find any record of Northern howler monkeys being kept in zoos, either in captive breeding programs or as an attraction.

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Fast Fact Attack: Endangered Species No. 76 – The Black-headed Spider Monkey


Black-headed spider monkey

Photographer: Peter Cook

“In the end, we conserve only what we love. We will love only what we understand. We will understand only what we are taught”
Baba Dioum

These elegant primates live almost exclusively in the upper-canopy and emergent trees, rarely coming down to the ground.  And, like most endangered species, they are fast losing their homes to deforestation and their lives to hunting.Ecuadorian brown-headed spider monkey

They live in protected parks, but the pressure on the park rangers has become so great, due to the increase in human population and activity, they are no longer equipped to deal with any conflict which arises.

The black-headed spider monkey is suffering as a result.

The species Ateles fusciceps is the largest of all New World monkeys.  The body is black or brown, with a brown head and pale rings around the forward facing eyes. The tail is prehensile and acts as a fifth limb with which to hang on to the branches and allow hands free feeding.  As with all spider monkeys, the black-headed spider monkey has disproportionately long, spindly limbs, hands like hooks and no thumbs.

The head and body length can be as much as twenty-two inches with a much longer, extremely strong, tail of thirty-four inches.  The average weight for males is almost twenty pounds and females nineteen pounds.

The black-headed spider monkey is arboreal and diurnal.  Graceful movement is by climbing and brachiation, and speeds of up toBlack-headed spider monkey  by Tambako The Jaguar thirty-four miles per hour can be reached.

Spider monkeys live in groups of up to 20-30 individuals.  However, they prefer travelling in smaller groups, so the whole troop is rarely seen together.  Leadership falls to the females when hunting for food.  They are highly intelligent primates and the various routes will be planned by the females in advance.

Black-headed spider monkey and babySpider monkeys have a lovely habit of greeting each other with a hug.  When the whole troop gets back together, they sometimes affectionately entwine tails, too.

There is no particular breeding season for spider monkeys.  The gestation period is usually up to two hundred and thirty-two days. Normally only one infant will be born with a pink face and pink ears.  It will ride on its mother’s back for the next sixteen weeks.  Sweetly, the baby will wrap its tail around its mother’s for security.  At twenty-two months the infant will be fully weaned.  By then, the infant will have developed its adult coat.  Females only give birth once every three years. 

The black-headed spider monkey, Ateles fusciceps fusciceps, is a sub-species of Geoffroy’s spider monkey.  The other sub-species is Ateles fusciceps rufiventris, which ranges from south-west Colombia to eastern Panama.

Habitat
Tropical and sub-tropical forests up to seventeen hundred meters above sea level.  The species favours the emergents and the upper canopy.
Where
The black-headed spider monkey  (a.f.f.)  occurs only in north-western Ecuador.  There have been reports of sightings in Colombia, but no evidence has ever been submitted.
What they eat
Fruit makes up the most part of the daily intake, with leaves, seeds and insects being eaten during the dry season when fruit is not so plentiful.
Threats
Severe habitat loss due to deforestation.  Excessive and illegal hunting has also caused huge losses to the population.  There has been an estimated population decline of more than 80% of the population of all black and brown-headed spider monkeys in less than fifty years.
Status: Endangered
The black-headed spider monkey (Ateles fusciceps fusciceps),  is listed on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species as Critically Endangered.  It is also protected under Cites Appendix 11.  There are an estimated two hundred to two hundred and fifty  Ateles fusciceps left in the wild in Ecuador.  Both sub-species live within the protected areas of Cotacachi-Cayapas Ecological Reserve, Los Cedros Protected Forest and Awá Ethnological Reserve.  Despite the supposed safety of these national parks, illegal hunting still continues.

Fast Fact Attack: Endangered Species No. 75 – The Malayan Tapir


Malayan tapir in captivity

“The more clearly we can focus our attention on the wonders and realities of the universe, the less taste we shall have for destruction”
Rachel Carson

Looking remarkably like a cross between a rhinoceros (to which it is related) and a huge prize boar wearing a saddle blanket, the Malayan tapir is yet another species suffering from habitat devastation. Once again, we bear witness to the terrible destruction caused by palm oil plantations.

These solitary, timid creatures are one of four species of tapir.  The others can be found Central and South America. The Malayan tapir, as the name would suggest, is native to Asia.

Malayan tapirs are surprisingly large, weighing up to seven hundred pounds; roughly as much as a Shetland pony.  But, far from being pony-like in its length, it can grow to as much as eight feet from head to tail.  Of all the tapirs, the Malayan tapir is the largest by far. Oddly, females are usually larger than males.

Tapirs are close relatives of (surprisingly) horses and (not so surprisingly) rhinos.  And, something you may not know, a group of tapirs is called a “candle”.

Malayan tapirs have long, flexible, prehensile trunks used extensively for grabbing leaves and plucking tasty fruit.  But, this proboscis also has another important role; that of a snorkel, used when the tapir goes swimming and diving for food and cover.

Malayan tapir - forestry commission IndonesiaIts sparse coat is a deep-dark-grey to black with a white ‘saddle’ running from the centre of its back to its tail, and white ears trims.  The coat is made up of very coarse hair which covers extremely tough skin. The tough skin comes in handy for protection against the claws and jaws of predators, and for withstanding the rigours of crashing through thick understorey vegetation when on the run.  It also has a very short stubby tail, small piggy-eyes and large ears. There are four toes on each fore foot and three toes on the hind ones.

It is said the disrupted colouration of the coat acts as camouflage, and predators most likely will mistake it for a large boulder when the animal is prone. This sounds a bit optimistic to me, but… let’s hope so!

Because tapirs are nocturnal and crepuscular (most active at dawn and dusk), the short-sightedness of the species is a bit of a drawback, especially when searching for food or avoiding predators. However, this is well-compensated for by the acute sense of smell they possess and the excellent hearing they enjoy.

Malayan tapirs are superb swimmers too, and will, by preference,  live near water, where they will spend the majority of their time. They feed from the bottom of the rivers on aquatic plants, and are able to submerge themselves for several minutes before using their ‘snorkels’.  Water also helps to cool them down and remove parasites, and allows refuge from predators.

But, don’t be fooled into thinking these gentle-looking creatures cannot and will not attack if necessary.  When threatened, they will charge using their very dangerous teeth to defend themselves.  Deaths of humans have been recorded in both the wild and in captivity.  Well… I suppose at least one species is getting its own back!

Malayan tapir and babyThe breeding season for tapirs typically occurs between April and June.  A gestation period of up to three hundred and ninety-five days follows. After which, one single calf will be born weighing about fifteen pounds.  Looking nothing like the mother in colour, the baby will have brown hair, white spots and white stripes.  This colouring allows it to blend in with the variegated forest vegetation.  Between the ages of four and seven months, the, now juvenile’s, coat will turn to the colours of an adult tapir.  The young one will be weaned at six to eight months.  By this time it will be almost fully grown.  The mother will only produce a calf once every two years.

***
Habitat
Primary and secondary tropical moist forests and lower montane forests.
Where
Sumatra, Myanmar and Thailand.
What they eat
Young leaves, growing twigs and aquatic plants. And, seasonal fruits. They enjoy palm tree fruits as well as mango and fig. They also put a great deal of effort into finding salt licks.
Threats
Human activity: habitat conversion to palm oil plantations. illegal logging, deforestation for agricultural and flooding caused by dammed rivers for hydroelectric projects. Hunters seek out Malayan tapirs for food and sport.  Young tapirs are also trafficked.  Baby and adolescent tapirs can be worth as much as six thousand dollars on the black market. Some are known to have been traded through Indonesian zoos and some have gone to private collectors.  Natural predators are the leopard and the tiger.
Status: Endangered
The Malayan Tapir (Tapirus indicus) is listed on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species as Endangered.  It is also protected under Cites Appendix 1.  Remaining numbers are thought to be as few as fifteen hundred to two thousand and decreasing.
The species is protected against hunting in all locations, and, because of their pig-like appearance, tapir meat is taboo in Sumatra anyway, where most of the population is Muslim.  Sadly, nothing is being done to protect its habitat.  The Malayan tapir is, regrettably in the same position as all other tapirs – in danger of extinction.  But, there is an upside;  there are a number of tapirs in zoos around the world and captive breeding seems to be working.

Other names: Asian tapir, badak (Malaysia and Indonesia), som-set (Thailand).

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Fast Fact Attack: Endangered Species No. 73 – The Northern Sportive Lemur


Northern sportive lemur

“If all the beasts were gone, men would die from a great loneliness of spirit, for whatever happens to the beasts also happens to the man.  All things are connected”
Chief Seattle

Not another endangered lemur you may cry, but, this one is very special.  Incredibly, there are only eighteen left on the planet and none known to be kept in captivity.  Also known as the Sahafary sportive lemur, this gorgeous little primate is really struggling to survive.  Like most wildlife species on the island of Madagascar, northern sporting lemurs cannot be found anywhere else in the world.  Many species are expected to go extinct within the next decade, and the chances are, the northern sportive lemur will be the first to go.  And, to boot, the first for two hundred years.  Currently, it has very little habitat left and even less chance of survival.  It is very doubtful that anything will change in time to save these endearing little primates.Sportive lemur 4 - Photo Credit Coke Smith

Madagascar, beautiful and as richly-biodiverse as it is, is also an island far too familiar with political unrest, poverty and lack of education.  The state of this species is a prime example of the result of the combination of these factors.  Twenty-one million people live on the island and over eighty-five per cent of its forests have disappeared.   It is estimated that all of the unprotected forest will be gone on the island by year 2025. None of it really makes sense.  The country is extremely rich in mineral deposits,  has petroleum and a vast array of wonderful wildlife which should bring in huge revenues from tourists.  Unfortunately, this is not what is happening.

This tiny, round-eyed resident of Madagascar measures no more than eight inches in length and weighs a mere two pounds.  It has greyish-brown fur with a dark line along its back.  Both eyes face forward for optimum vision.

The northern sportive lemur leaps from tree to tree, and can jump vertically up tree trunks using padded hands and feet to cling on with.  The species also has a curious habit of adopting a vertical stance, rather like a boxer, when feeling threatened.  It is from this stance the name ‘sportive’ is derived.

Sportive lemur 5Northern sportive lemurs are nocturnal.  During the day, they sleep in holes in trees, usually up to eight meters above ground level.

The breeding season begins in April and continues through to June.  After a gestation period of up to one hundred and fifty days, usually between September and December, a single infant will be born.  Young are nursed in the tree hollows until they are about about four months old.  They continue to stay with the mother until they are about one year old.

Habitat
Dry deciduous forest and evergreen forest.
Where
Madagascar
What they eat
Mainly folivorous
Threats
The major threat is habit loss and degredation form slash-and-burn agriculture, illegal logging and charcoal burning.The Northern Sportive Lemur is a niche species.  Natural predators include Sanzinia madagascariensis, the Malagasy tree boa, which sneaks up on them in the day, whilst they sleep, and snatches them from their holes.
Status: Critically Endangered
The northern sportive lemur (Lepilemur septentrionalis) is listed on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species as Critically Endangered.  This species is also under the protection of CITES Appendix I. Only nineteen are thought to be extant in the wild, with no known animals kept in captivity. Despite conservation efforts, with so few left and none within captive breeding programs, the future of the northern sportive lemur, very sadly, does not look at all promising.

Related links
Dead Primate Walking
Lemurs Most Threatened Mammals on the Planet 
Lemurs Named World’s Most Endangered Mammals

Fast Fact Attack: Endangered Species No. 72 – The Red-ruffed Lemur


Red-ruffed lemur

“The Animals of the planet are in desperate peril.  Without free animal life I believe we will lose the spiritual equivalent of oxygen”
Alice Walker

Following the long-term rape and pillage of its forests, Madagascar’s unique biodiversity is suffering greatly.  Extreme poverty, internal unrest and the illegal activities of insatiable global businesses have all contributed.  And, it is the innocent animals like the red-ruffed lemur who are left to struggle on, potentially homeless and without an adequate supply of food.

Habitat loss is a major threat to these primates, particularly as they are so dependent on large fruit trees in old-growth forests.Red-ruffed lemur

Considered to be the most beautiful of all lemurs, the red-ruffed lemur, as its name suggests, sports a long, soft, thick, rusty-red coat.  It has a black face and a patch of white fur at the back of its head.  Its hands, feet, underside and tail are also black.

It is one of the largest of all Malagasy primates, weighing in at up to eight pounds, with an average body length of twenty-four inches.  At twenty inches, the tail is almost the same length.  The species is equipped with a specialised claw on the second toe of the hind foot which, along with the lower-front teeth, is used for grooming the long, soft fur.

Red-ruffed lemurs have a whole range of sounds.  They bark to ‘chatter’ with each other and have special alarm calls to warn others of approaching predators.  In all, they have twelve different calls.  Most of which can be heard for miles.  They also communicate through scent.

Red-ruffed lemur Red-ruffed lemurs are polygamous.  They live in small, matriarchal groups of anything between two and six animals.  They breed annually between May and July.  There is a gestation period of up to one hundred and three days.  After which, the female will give birth to an average of three offspring.  At birth, infants are not able to cling to the mother.  When the mother moves, she picks the infants up individually in her mouth. Babies are weaned at four months.  Within this period, mothers ‘park’ their babies in core areas, allowing them to go into the forest.  Other members of the group will care for the babies during this time, giving the mother a much-needed break.  The father will also help out.  Red-ruffed lemurs reach maturity at the age of two

Habitat
Tall primary forests.
Where
Masoala Peninsula in north-eastern Madagascar.
What they eat
Largely frugivorous, but will also eat leaves, seeds, grains and nuts, nectar and flowers. When feeding on the nectar of flowers, red-ruffed lemurs play a vital role in the pollination of hardwood trees.
Threats
Human encroachment, deforestation, hunting for meat and live capture for the international pet trade.  Natural predators are the fossa, snakes and eagles.
Status: Endangered
The Red-ruffed lemur  (Varecia rubra)  is listed on the  IUCN Red List of Threatened Species  as Endangered.  It is also protected under Cites Appendix 1.  It is protected officially only within the Masoala National Park and the Makira Protected Area.  The wild population of the red-ruffed lemur is estimated to be between thirty and fifty thousand. The captive worldwide population of red-ruffed lemurs stands at almost six hundred animals.  Captive populations can be found in the United States and Europe.

Fast Fact Attack: Endangered Species No. 71 – The Dhole or Asiatic Wild Dog


Dhole 3

“Nothing living should ever be treated with contempt.  Whatever it is that lives – a man, a tree, or a bird – should be touched gently, because the time is short.  Civilization is another word for respect for life”
Elizabeth Goudge (1900-1984)
 

Those familiar with Kipling’s Red Dog may remember the bloodthirsty, aggressive and destructive creatures the dhole were portrayed to be.  In fact, Kipling did for the dhole what Little Red Riding Hood did for the wolf.  Such seemingly innocent children’s stories leading to both animals being ultimately, and wrongly, feared and persecuted.

Although the same stigmata are still attached to the dhole, even more insults have been heaped upon it.  Again, we have the same chain of events as with other endangered species.  They have been driven away from their rapidly decreasing habitat.  They have seen their prey base diminish and been left with no choice but to return the discourtesy of encroachment inflicted upon them, and head towards the settlements of their aggressors.

In moments of hunger they have preyed on cattle and goats.  In return, they have been relentlessly poisoned, trapped, shot and had their pups killed in their dens.  And, to add to all that, they have suffered the diseases and pathogens brought to their world by man and his domestic animals.

This magnificent species deserves more than this.  Alas, it seems to have been forgotten, so now may be a good time to try and raise a little awareness.

These gorgeous creatures have coats of rusty-red, which may vary in tone between regions.  They have bushy fox-like tails with a black tip, and white patches on the chest, underside and paws.  They can jump vertically to a height of over seven feet and swim extremely well.  They have been known to drive prey into the water to capture it. Roughly the size of a springer spaniel, males can weigh up to forty pounds.  Females are smaller.

The dhole is capable of felling prey up to ten times its own weight and will happily take on a tiger.  The species hunts in packs of five to ten and will ambush prey rather than stalk or chase it.

The breeding season is from November to April, after which, anything between one and twelve pups will be born.  The pups will be fully weaned at seven weeks and will reach maturity at the age of one.  They will remain in the den for about ten or eleven weeks, and by six months of age will be learning to hunt with the adults.

Habitat
Moist and dry deciduous forests, tropical rainforests, open meadows and alpine steppe.
Where
A widespread range across seventeen countries in Central and eastern Asia.
What they eat
The species is almost exclusively carnivore, consuming mainly deer.  It will also eat wild boar and hare – as and when available.
Threats
Depletion of prey base, loss and transformation of habitat, persecution, disease and competition with other species  (In the case of Indo-China this specifically means people).
Status: Critically Endangered

The Dhole or Asiatic Wild Dog  (Cuon alpinus)  is listed on the  IUCN Red List of Threatened Species  as Endangered.  It is also protected under Cites Appendix 11 (2003). There are thought to be less than two thousand five hundred of the species left in the wild and at least one hundred and twenty in captivity.
This is a species whose habitat is so fragmented and wide ranging, it is easy to forget it is there.  Which may be one of the reasons it has not had all the attention it deserves of late.  After a great flurry of activity a decade ago, very little has been done since. Hopefully, this will soon change.
The dhole is protected, to some degree, in the following countries:
The Russian Federation
Nepal
Vietnam
Cambodia
India

Here is a link to a great first hand account of  an encounter with the dhole  which you may enjoy.

Related Links
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Fast Fact Attack: Endangered Species No. 70 – The Asian Elephant


Asian elephant

Image: World Wide Fund for Nature

“Compassion for animals is intimately connected with goodness of character; and it may be confidently asserted that he who is cruel to animals cannot be a good man”
Arthur Schopenhauer

Asian elephant pulling log uphill  Photo by Zafer KizilkayaEveryday, more elephants are captured for illegal logging operations.  Forced to aid the destruction of their own natural habitat, they move around in chains hauling away huge trees, clearing the way for more palm oil plantations.  With their habitat gone, the free herds are compelled to move towards human settlements in search of food and shelter. They have nowhere else to go.  They have no choice other than to leave behind the remnants of their forests and head towards the villages.  Those that do flee are often on the point of starvation. Unfortunately, on the move, they are inclined to do a great deal of damage.  This has brought humans and elephants to the point of war in Asia.

Villagers are laying traps for elephants, tormenting and torturing them, and even killing them.  But, it is hard to blame them sometimes.  A moving elephant can, and does, trample crops, demolish homes and kill people.  And it is happening a lot.  But, that doesn’t mean the fault lies with the elephant either.

The blame for this appalling situation falls squarely on the shoulders of the greedy, callous and criminal plantation owners.  Those who see littleDeforestationin Sumatra other than a cash crop.  The West cannot get enough of palm oil, and there are few products that do not contain it.  And, these insatiable pillagers of the forests intend to meet the demand regardless of the absolute devastation they are causing to the irreplaceable and magnificent rainforests and the dependent inhabitants.

As most of us are aware, elephants are not small.  The average Asian adult male comes in at about five and a half tons.  They grow up to nine feet at the shoulder and can be as long as twenty-one feet from trunk to tail  (the tail being just under five feet long).  Females tend to be smaller.  The ears of the Asian elephant are much smaller than those of the African elephant and coincidentally resemble the shape of the India subcontinent.

Asian elephants at mud-holeIn Asian elephants, unlike their African cousins, only the males have tusks.  If any are found in females, they  (the ‘tushes’)  are barely visible.  Tusks are, in fact, elongated incisors which continue to grow throughout the elephant’s life. They are used for eating, digging for water, debarking trees, social interactions and as weapons.

Elephants usually mate during the rainy season.  After a gestation period of twenty-two months, a single calf will be born (twins are very rare).  The calf will weigh about two hundred and fifty pounds at birth.   When born, calves suckle through the mouth.  At this point the trunk does not have enough developed muscle to be of any use.  Several months will need to pass before it is able to gain full use of it.  The bond between mother and calf is known to be strong, but others in the herd will help out with the infant’s care.   Once males have reached adolescence, they will be pushed away from the group.   Most will become part of bachelor groups until they reach full maturity and go it alone.

Habitat
A wide variety of forests, grasslands and scrublands.
Where
Asian elephants occur in isolated populations in thirteen range States in parts of India and South-east Asia, including Sumatra and Borneo.
What they eat
Grasses, roots, fruit, and bark – and in enormous quantities.  One adult alone can get through up to 300 pounds of food in a day. They are also known to eat cultivated crops such as sugar cane and bananas.
Threats
Capture for domestic use;  this has become a major problem for some populations and numbers have been reduced significantly.  Habitat loss, degradation and fragmentation are also huge threats.  Poaching and conflict with humans is on the rise. 
Status: Endangered
The Asian elephant (Elephas maximus) is listed on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species as Endangered.  It is also protected under Cites Appendix 1. Estimates put the population, across all range States, as being between thirty-nine and fifty thousand in the wild, with a further thirteen thousand kept as working or former-working elephants. There are obvious difficulties in collecting this sort of data, so exact figures have never been published. What is certain, is that over half the elephants occur in India.
Various agencies and organisations are working towards reducing conflict between local communities and the elephants. This includes approaches to crop protection, community-based guarding methods to safely repel the onslaught of elephants and education and promotion of elephant conservation throughout Asia.

Related links
Deforestation is Killing the Asian Elephant

Asian Elephants Are Being Smuggled Into Thailand To Tightrope Walk For Tourists
A tusk-less future for the Asian elephant