Asian Elephant Asian Elephant
Asian Elephant

Asian Elephant

Scientific Classification

Common Name
Asian elephant, Indian elephant
Genus Species
Elephas (elephant) maximus (largest)

Fast Facts

Huge thick-skinned herbivore with fan-shaped ears and a long trunk, with a single finger-like projection at the tip, which originates between two forward projecting incisors that extend to the ground
2.4 to 3.1 m (8 to 10 ft.) at the shoulder
2,700 to 5,000 kg (6,000–11,000 lbs.); females are smaller
Consumes plants including grasses, fruits, vegetables, leaves, and bark which it gathers with its long trunk
18 to 22 months
Sexual Maturity
Male: 10 to 14 years (bulls)
Female: 8 to 9 years (cows)
Life Span
60 to 70 years
Southeast Asia, Sri Lanka, and Sumatra
Forests, adjoining grasslands, and scrub
Global: No data
IUCN: Endangered
CITES: Appendix I
USFWS: Endangered

Fun Facts

  1. The elephant's ivory tusks are incisors used for digging, uprooting trees and displaying.
  2. The dominant elephant in the herd is a female, the matriarch. She is often the oldest, largest or most experienced elephant in the herd of related females and their young.
  3. An infant elephant is cared for by its mother and other females called "aunties" in the herd.
  4. Elephants can use low frequency sound waves for communication between members of the herd and individuals outside the herd. These sounds may carry for distances of up to 10 miles.
  5. For more information about elephants, explore our Elephants Infobook.

Ecology and Conservation

Asian elephants have adapted to their environment as it changed over vast periods of time. Today they still interact with and shape their environment. Their foraging activities help to maintain the areas in which they live. by pulling down trees to eat leaves, branches, and roots they create clearings in which new young trees and other vegetation grow to provide future nutrition for elephants and other organisms. Elephant trails through the brush are paths that other animals can use. Termites eat elephant feces and often begin construction of termite mounds under piles of feces!

The Asian elephants' forest homes are being ravaged today because of commercial demand for forest derived products such as coffee, tea, rubber, and hardwoods. Crop cultivation, mining for iron ore, and flooding by hydroelectric projects have also acted to diminish the large tracts of land required by elephants for adequate food supplies. Only about 35,000 to 40,000 Asian elephants survive today throughout a discontinuous range in southeast Asia.


Eisenberg, J.F., McKay, G.M., and Seidensticker, J. Asian Elephants. Washington, DC: Friends of the National Zoo and National Zoological Park, 1990.

Shoshani, J., Ph.D., Editor. Elephants Majestic Creatures of the Wild. Emaus, PA: Rodale Press, 1992.

Whitney, L.P. The Unforgettable Elephant. New York: Walker and Company, 1980.