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Asian Elephant (Elephas maximus) Fact Sheet: Summary

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This fact sheet, like an elephant, is aging gracefully. San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance is working to bring you an updated version of the Asian Elephant Fact Sheet with new science and conservation information. Thanks for your patience, as our tusks go to the ground and dig into this huge project. Please check back soon. SDZWA team members can email questions to

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Asian Elephant (Elephas maximus) Fact Sheet

Two Asian elephants, one with long tusks

Asian Elephant (Elephas maximus)

Image credit: © San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance. All rights reserved.


Taxonomy Physical Characteristics

Order: Proboscidea

Family: Elephantidae

Subfamily: Elephantinae

Subtribe: Elephantina

Genus: Elephas

Species: Elephas maximus

Subspecies: E.m. maximus, E.m. indicus,
E.m. sumatranus, E.m. borneensis

Body Weight:
2,000-5,500 kg. (4,400-12,000 lbs)

Shoulder Height:
Male: 3.2 m. (10.5 ft.);
Female: 2.24 m. (7.3 ft.)

Trunk: One "finger" at the end

Tusks: Females tuskless; percentages of tuskless males in populations vary widely (0 to 100%)

Distribution & Status Behavior & Ecology

Range: Indian subcontinent, Continental Southeast Asia, and Asian islands

Habitat: Tropical & subtropical moist broadleaf forests & dry broadleaf & dry scrub forests

IUCN Status: Endangered (2008 assessment) (Choudhury et al. 2008)

CITES Appendix: Appendix I (UNEP 2019)

Population in Wild: approximately 46,000 individuals.

Activity Cycle: Diurnal and nocturnal; feeding & traveling to food 70-90% of the time

Social Groups: Matriarchal herds of 8-12; males solitary

Diet: Herbivorous

Predators: Humans

Reproduction & Development Species Highlights

Age of Sexual Maturity:
Males: 14 to 15 years
Females: 15 to 16

Gestation: 22 months

Litter Size: Usually 1; twins possible

Birth weight: 75-115 kg (165-254 lbs)

Age at Weaning: 18 mo.-3+ years.

Typical Life Expectancy:
Managed care: median life expectancy of about 47-48 years (females)

Feature Facts:

  • Considered holy in Hindu and Buddhist cultures
  • Have ability to hear very low frequency sounds from far-off environment, including distant thunderstorms and hoofbeats of running animals.
  • Highly social animals with extremely complex behaviors, including, empathy, problem solving and communication
  • Gestation is longest of any mammal, 18-22 months, and cows can calve after 50 years of age
  • India has over 50% of remaining wild populations
  • Current threats include poaching, habitat loss/fragmentation, and conflict with humans
  • First North American elephant born in managed care in Philadelphia, PA in 1880.

About This Fact Sheet

© 2008-2019 San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance. Global population estimate updated Nov 2018. Other minor updates 2019.

How to cite: Asian Elephant (Elephas maximus) Fact Sheet. c2008-2019. San Diego (CA): San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance; [accessed YYYY Mmm dd]. asianelephant.
(Note: replace YYYY Mmm dd with date accessed, e.g., 2015 Jan 15)

Disclaimer: Although San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance makes every attempt to provide accurate information, some of the facts provided may become outdated or replaced by new research findings. Questions and comments may be addressed to

Beating the Heat

Asian elephant splashes water on its back

An Asian elephant at the San Diego Zoo splashes water on its back.

Image credit: © San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance. All rights reserved.

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