Blog 135

Asian Elephants & Ceylon Arrack

Tom

Director and founder of 135

Asian Elephant (Elephas maximus)

Overview:

Recent population estimates of the Asian Elephant suggest there are approximately 50,000 of these beautiful animals left in the wild.  Once widespread across the continent, the species can now be found in fragmented populations from India to Indonesia, with over 50% of the surviving population found in India.  Formerly they ranged from West Asia along the Iranian coast into China, where they disappeared sometime after the 14th Century.

There are a number of differences distinguishing Asian from African Elephants. Firstly, African elephants are significantly larger – African bulls tend to grow up to 4m tall and weigh between 4-7,500kg compared to 3.5m and 3-6,000kg for Asian elephants. Physically they also have distinct features. African elephants have a fuller, more rounded head in comparison to Asian elephants who develop a twin-domed head with an indentation through the middle.  The ears are probably the most obvious of the differences and in a helpful manner.  African elephants’ ears look like a map of the African continent, whereas Asian elephants’ ears are smaller and look more like the Indian subcontinent.  It is only some of the male Asian elephants that have tusks with about 50% of females and a few ales only having tushes (small tusk like teeth), whereas all African elephant elephants have tusks.

As with African elephants, Asian elephants play an important ecological role lending them role as a ‘keystone species’.  Elephants help to regulate the forests and other habitats, helping to preserve ecological properties favouring other animals within their ecosystem.

Threats:

The pre-eminent threats to the Asian elephant today are habitat loss, degradation and fragmentation, all of which are the results of living in the region of the world with the densest human population.  Another impact of this is the increasing conflicts between elephants and humans, whether that comes from crop destruction or the ever expanding human population encroaching on the elephant habitat.  As a result of these conflicts, hundreds of people and elephants are killed annually.

Elephants have one of the largest areas of natural habitat amongst the animal kingdom.  As a result they tend to be the first to suffer the consequences of habitat fragmentation and destruction.  One of the most serious consequences is population fragmentation, where small ‘pocket herds’ are separated from the main populations, isolating them and increasing the chances of inbreeding depression, limiting their chance of long term survival.  Unfortunately, one of the most common outcomes of these herds is that they are taken into ‘training centres’ where they are tamed and their genetics are lost forever to the wild populations.

As with African elephants, poaching and the ivory trade also plays a major part in the survival chances of the Asian elephant.  Despite the fact that large tusks are relatively uncommon in the Asian elephant, they are still hunted for their tusks – even a small tush is valuable to a poacher.  On top of that they are also poached for other products such as meat and leather.  On top of this, the impacts of poaching can be even greater on Asian elephant herds.  Due to the fact that only some males develop tusks, sex ratios can be affected, as in the Periyar Tiger Reserve in Southern India where the ratio changed from 1:6 (male:female) in 1969 to 1:122 in 1989.  This has an obvious impact on fecundity, reproduction and genetic variation.

The long-term future of elephants is inextricably linked to mitigating human-elephant conflicts and the illegal wildlife trade.  Until we can resolve these issues, the chances of the Asian elephant surviving remain critical.  There are however some positives in recent years.  Within India, there is evidence that a large population in the south of the country (in the Western Ghats) has been increasing as a result of effective conservation efforts.  The issue is of endangered wildlife within India is taken extremely seriously, and there efforts are both intricate and resourceful, with new methods being trialled all the time.

How you can help:

Ceylon Arrack:

Ceylon Arrack

Ceylon Arrack is a traditional Sri Lankan spirit distilled from the sap of the coconut flower, which can only be collected by hand, and aged in Sri Lankan oak casks. The care and devotion put into production by Ceylon Arrack is second to none.  The Rockland Distillery where it is produced is one of the first green distilleries with a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification form the U.S. Green Building Council and every effort is taken to reduce its carbon footprint (they are 98% carbon neutral).  All left over waste from production is biodegraded via anaerobic digesters and then aerobically digested by natural bacteria in the estate ponds.  They undertake innovative recycling measures, from harvesting the ponds’ mineral-rich water hyacinth to use as a fertilizer and capturing biogas to fuel their boilers. In order to prevent logging of the surrounding forests they also purposefully grow their own Halmilla trees to harvest.

Contributions from every bottle sold also goes towards the conservation of wildlife in Sri Lanka, with a particular emphasis on their native Asian elephants via a local elephant orphanage.  In particular, Ceylon are passionate about Ruby, a resident at the local elephant orphanage – due to be released back into the wild shortly.  She was found lost and abandoned within the estate and taken to the orphanage to be cared for.

How to drink:

Ceylon Arrack acts as an enhancer to bring out a new depth of flavour from its partner.  Delicious as an alternative to a Pisco in a sour – just replace Pisco with Ceylon Arrack and Peychauds for Peach Bitters to create the wonderfully delicate Tusker.  Or alternatively, the punch recipe given below is their signature drink, dedicated to the little orphaned elephant, Ruby, they found wondering their plantation.

Ingredients:

Ruby Punch

Ruby Punch

50ml Ceylon Arrack

20ml Port

75ml English Breakfast Tea

20ml Lemon Juice

15ml Sugar Syrup

Add the ingredients to a Boston Glass.  Shake with ice and strain over fresh ice into a highball – or better still a Ruby Mug (pictured).

Alternatively pop into Bar 135 to try both of the above cocktails, safe in the knowledge that £1 from every drink is going back to help conservation efforts, along with the money donated from Ceylon Arrack.

About our blog

From Aviation highs all the way down to a Dark and Stormy, the Bar 135 blog will guide you through the cocktail world and make sure you end up with the perfect drink in your hand.
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