And not 10,000 as it was believed until now.
Researchers have found that the elephant that existed in North China until c. 3000 years ago was not the Asian elephant (Elephas maximus) but another species that was believed extinct much earlier Paleoloxodon sp.
or straight tusked elephant. The species or a closely related one went extinct in Europe some 30,000 years ago but survived in East Asia until… now we know that until the Iron Age in fact.
To investigate whether these mammals continued to live beyond the Pleistocene epoch and into the Holocene (the current geological epoch), the team re-examined fossilised elephant teeth discovered in Holocene layers of rock in North China during the 1900s.
And found them to be unmistakably Paleoloxodon, not Elephas.
Interestingly, the evidence was also in bronze art from the Xia, Shang and Zhou dynasties, which depicted elephants with two “fingers” in their trunks, like the African elephants but never the Asian ones.
Ref. Ji Li et al., The latest straight-tusked elephants (Palaeoloxodon)? “Wild elephants” lived 3000 years ago in North China. Quaternary International 2012. Pay per view → LINK [doi:10.1016/j.quaint.2011.10.039].