I spent my summer as an intern at Leeds Museum Discovery Centre helping to catalogue their vast herbarium collection. Each day I would enter the store to collect my herbarium samples, passing hundreds of thousands of fascinating objects on my way. One object that repeatedly caught my eye was the skull of an Elephas maximus, the Asian elephant.
To think that this skull is an impressive 1.04m high it is clear to see why I found this object to be so captivating. It is no wonder elephants are the largest extant land mammals. With its large ivory tusks, I can only imagine how daunting it must be to stand next to a live one.
Elephas maximus is the only remaining species of the genus Elephas and has itself been listed as an endangered species. Currently there are an estimated 25,600 to 32,750 individuals in existence. This may seem like a lot; however, it’s put into perspective on learning that only three generations ago there was a population size double that of today. This is worryingly fast and unless serious conservation action is taken quickly it shows reason to be greatly concerned for the future of such a remarkable species.
Posted by Clare but written and researched by Steven Laird who worked diligently on the fantastic natural science collections at Leeds Museum Discovery Centre in 2011.