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Asian Elephant (Elephas maximus) Fact Sheet: Distribution & Habitat


Historic range

  • Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, eastward through Persia
  • Indian subcontinent
  • South and Southeast Asia
  • China, up to the Yangtze-Kiang

Current populations

  • Indian subcontinent (India, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh)
  • Continental Southeast Asia (China, Myanmar, Thailand, Kampuchea, Laos, Vietnam, Malaysia)
  • Asian islands (Andaman Islands, Sri Lanka, Sumatra, Borneo)

Presently occupy only 15% of historic range
India has 60% of remaining wild populations
E. m. borneensis occupied Borneo in prehistoric times; not imported from India


Primary habitat types

  • Tropical and subtropical broadleaf forests
  • Move through vegetation zones seasonally; often found along rivers in dry months
  • Prefer transitional zones between two ecological communities (forests and grasslands)
  • In Southern India: hilly dry scrub through deciduous forest to wet evergreen forest
  • Northeastern India and Burma: swampy grasslands on river floodplains; moist deciduous forest on Himalayan slopes
  • Sri Lanka: mainly dry deciduous woodland, scrub, grassland, and marshes; small population in rainforest
  • India's Andaman Islands: swim across sea between various islands

Comparison to African elephants

  • Require more access to shade than African elephants
  • Inhabit more low visibility habitats compared to African elephants

Distribution Map

Asian elephant distribution

Asian Elephant Distribution

Adapted from
according to IUCN fact sheet
Click here or on map for detailed distribution (IUCN)

Page Citations

Kurt (1990)
Santiapillai & Jackson (1990)
Sukumar (1989, 2008)

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