Asian Elephant

(Elephas maximus)




Facts about this animal

The Asian elephant differs from his African cousin in that the outline of the back is convex, with the highest points of the silhouette being the head and the hind quarters sloping, the large forehead and the smaller ears. The height at the shoulder in males is up to 330 cm, the head body-length is 550-640 cm. They can weight up to five tons (males). Females are smaller and lighter than males. The head is very large, the forehead is flat, vertical, with two humps on the top.


The surface of the trunk is rather smooth and there is a finger-like projection at the tip (above). The ears are relatively small and more or less pentagonal in shape. Females are nearly always, males sometimes without visible tusks. If they are present, they are curved and rather massive. The legs are shorter than in the African species. They have five nails on each fore foot, and four nails on each hind foot. The skin is smoother than in the African Elephant. The colour is dark grey to brown, often mottled about the forehead, ears, base of trunk and the chest with flesh-coloured blotches. The hair covering is scant, the hairs are long, stiff and bristly.

Did you know?
That the Asian elephant is more closely related to the mammoth, which became extinct about 3'000 years ago, than to the African elephant?


Name (Scientific) Elephas maximus
Name (English) Asian Elephant
Name (French) Eléphant d'Asie
Name (German) Asiatischer Elefant
Name (Spanish) Elefante asiático
Local names Bahasa: Gajah
Hindi: Hathi (male), Hathni (female)
Tamil, AnaiMalay: Ana
CITES Status Appendix I (Great Britain)
CMS Status Not listed



Photo Copyright by
Zoo Leipzig



Range Sri Lanka and parts of India, Southern China and Southeast Asia, including Sumatra and Borneo
Habitat Jungle and scrub forest, preferring areas that combine grass with low woody plants and trees.
Wild population Approx. 40000-50000 and decreasing (IUCN Red List 2011)
Zoo population 475 reported to ISIS In Europe, 75 zoos with a total of some 260 elephants participate in the EEP

In the Zoo

Asian Elephant


How this animal should be transported

For air transport, Container Note 71 of the IATA Live Animals Regulations, should be followed.


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Photo Copyright by
Zoo Leipzig

Why do zoos keep this animal

Elephants are among the most emotive megafauna species. They are one of the great attractions for zoo visitors, and thus an ideal flagship species for the conservation of the shrinking South/South-East Asian jungle and its many threatened inhabitants.

The Asian elephant is rated endangered by IUCN and it is listed in Appendix I of CITES. Zoos therefore undetake efforts to establish a self-sustaining ex situ population through coordinated breeding programmes managed at the regional level. As a result of this programmes, average group size and the percentage of institutions keeping elephant bulls are steadily increasing.

Although the Asian elephant is not primarily in the focus of the illegal ivory trade, it provides an opportunity for addressing the problem of illegal trade in ivory and may succeed in influencing consumer behaviour.

Zoos may also keep elephants for animal welfare reasons by accepting to care for elephants kept under less suitable conditions in other zoos, circuses or by artists.