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In zoos, Asian elephants die at a much younger age; captive populations are declining due to a low birth and high death rate. borneensis lives in northern Borneo and is smaller than all the other subspecies, but with larger ears, a longer tail, and straight tusks. Female captive elephants have lived beyond 60 years when kept in semi-natural surroundings, such as forest camps.

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Tusks serve to dig for water, salt, and rocks, to debark and uproot trees, as levers for maneuvering fallen trees and branches, for work, for display, for marking trees, as weapon for offense and defense, as trunk-rests, and as protection for the trunk. Female Asian elephants usually lack tusks; if tusks—in that case called "tushes"—are present, they are barely visible, and only seen when the mouth is open.

The enamel plates of the molars are greater in number and closer together in Asian elephants.

Elephants are reported to go to safer ground during natural disasters like tsunamis and earthquakes, although there have been no scientific records of this since it is hard to recreate or predict natural disasters.

Asian elephants inhabit grasslands, tropical evergreen forests, semi-evergreen forests, moist deciduous forests, dry deciduous forests and dry thorn forests, in addition to cultivated and secondary forests and scrublands.

Over this range of habitat types elephants occur from sea level to over 3,000 m (9,800 ft).

In the eastern Himalaya in northeast India, they regularly move up above 3,000 m (9,800 ft) in summer at a few sites.

The "proboscis" or trunk consists wholly of muscular and membranous tissue, and is a tapering muscular structure of nearly circular cross-section extending proximally from attachment at the anterior nasal orifice, and ending distally in a tip or finger.

The length may vary from 1.5 to 2 m (59 to 79 in) or longer depending on the species and age.

Their wrinkled skin is movable and contains many nerve centers.

It is smoother than that of African elephants, and may be depigmented on the trunk, ears, or neck.

The deeper muscles are best seen as numerous distinct fasciculi in a cross-section of the trunk.

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