Animal Profile: Asian elephant

Our Animal Profile series is shining a spotlight on the magical species we are protecting through our innovative conservation programmes.

There are many species of wildlife that call the tapestry of India’s landscapes home, but of course we couldn’t start this series with any other than the majestic Asian elephant.

About Asian elephants

There are a number of subspecies to Asian elephants (Elephas maximus) including Indian, Sri Lankan, Sumatran and the newly classified Bornean elephant. Across Asia, they number between 40-50,000 but their population size is decreasing owing to habitat loss and fragmentation which is the biggest threat to their survival.

Conflict with humans

Human-elephant conflict poses a grave threat to the Asian elephant’s continued existence. It is a result of habitat loss and fragmentation which is caused by human encroachment on their range spaces, including building development and land clearance for farming.  Elephants are often seen crossing busy highways and railway tracks which pose huge threat to life.

When this loss of their range forces elephants and humans interact, the outcome is often crop raiding, injuries and deaths to humans caused by elephants, and elephants being killed by humans for reasons other than ivory and habitat degradation. 

Find out more about how Elephant Family are protecting Asian elephants.

Asian elephant facts

  • Female elephants are more social than males and form herds of related females that are led by the ‘matriarch’. Males usually live solo but sometimes form small groups with other males called ‘bachelor herds’.
  • They can reach 6.4m in length and 3m at the shoulder, and weigh as much as 5 tonnes.
  • Elephants eat an average of 150 kg of food per day and can spend more than two thirds of each day feeding on grasses. They also eat bark, roots, leaves and stems, and some of their favourites include farmed crops such as bananas, rice and sugarcane.
  • Elephants need to drink at least once a day so they are always close to a source of fresh water.