Recognizing Indiviudal Elephants
To study social organization or keep track of the demography of a population, one needs to be able to recognize inidvidual elephants. Only this way you can follow an elephant over a longer perioid of time, as elephants live up to 30 years.
It is actually not hard to recognize individual elephants. Have a close look at their ears, tail and look out for special marks like lumps.
The side of the ear can be folded in (towards the elephant) or out. Some elephants have no fold at all. Note that the left and right ear might be folded differently.
The top of the ear can be folded in or out. Again, some elephants have no fold at all. The top and side fold don’t have to be folded the same way.
Tears and holes
The ears can have tears or holes which are quite unique and easy to recognize.
Depigmentation / ear lobes
Ears can have characteristic depigmentations. However, after a “dust bath” those might be hard to see. The ear lobes are also differently shaped.
The tail tuft has hair on two sides. Which side has more hair or longer hair is variable, which makes it a good feature to identify an elephant.
The length of the tail is variable. Sometimes a part of it is even missing.
Only about 7% of Sri Lanka’s males have tusks. The tusks have different shapes and lengths, which makes it very easy to distinguish the tuskers.
Old gun shot wounds or marks from snares can also be used to identify elephants. One has to be careful with fresh wounds because they might heal completely, making them disappear again.
Left: Side and top of ear are folded out
Right: Side fold in and not much of a top fold
Left and right ear folded differently
cEar with hole
Ear with tear
Ears with differently shaped lobes
Left: Tail tuft has more hair inside
Right: Tail tuft has hair on only one side>
Part of tail is missing
Lump on the forehead
Lump on the leg