Asian elephant

Asian elephant
Temporal range:
PlioceneHolocene,[2] 2.5–0 Ma
Elephas maximus (Bandipur).jpg
A tusked male Asian elephant in Bandipur National Park, Karnataka, India
A female Asian elephant with calf in Mudumalai National Park, Tamil Nadu, India
Scientific classification edit
E. maximus[1]
Binomial name
Elephas maximus[1]

E. m. maximus
E. m. indicus
E. m. sumatranus
E. m. borneensis

Elephas Maximus distribution evolution map.svg
Asian elephant historical range (pink) and current range (red)

The Asian elephant (Elephas maximus), also called Asiatic elephant, is the only living species of the genus Elephas and is distributed in the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia, from India and Nepal in the west to Borneo in the south. Three subspecies are recognised—E. m. maximus from Sri Lanka, E. m. indicus from mainland Asia and E. m. sumatranus from the island of Sumatra.[1] The Asian elephant is the largest living land animal in Asia.[4]

Since 1986, the Asian elephant has been listed as Endangered on the IUCN Red List, as the population has declined by at least 50 percent over the last three generations, estimated to be 60–75 years. It is primarily threatened by loss of habitat, habitat degradation, fragmentation and poaching.[3] In 2003, the wild population was estimated at between 41,410 and 52,345 individuals. Female captive elephants have lived beyond 60 years when kept in semi-natural surroundings, such as forest camps. In zoos, Asian elephants die at a much younger age; captive populations are declining due to a low birth and high death rate.[5]

The genus Elephas originated in Sub-Saharan Africa during the Pliocene and spread throughout Africa before emigrating to southern Asia.[2] The earliest indications of captive use of Asian elephants are engravings on seals of the Indus Valley Civilisation dated to the 3rd millennium BC.[6]


Sri Lankan elephants

Carl Linnaeus first described the genus Elephas and an elephant from Ceylon under the binomial Elephas maximus in 1758.[7] In 1798, Georges Cuvier first described the Indian elephant under the binomial Elephas indicus.[8] In 1847, Coenraad Jacob Temminck first described the Sumatran elephant under the binomial Elephas sumatranus.[9] Frederick Nutter Chasen classified all three as subspecies of the Asian elephant in 1940.[10]

Three subspecies are currently recognised: the Sri Lankan elephant, the Indian elephant, and the Sumatran elephant.[3][4] In 1950, Paules Edward Pieris Deraniyagala described the Borneo elephant under the trinomial Elephas maximus borneensis, taking as his type an illustration in National Geographic, but not a living elephant in accordance with the rules of the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature.[11] E. m. borneensis lives in northern Borneo and is smaller than all the other subspecies, but with larger ears, a longer tail, and straight tusks. Results of genetic analysis indicate that its ancestors separated from the mainland population about 300,000 years ago.[12]

The population in Vietnam and Laos was tested to determine if it is a subspecies as well. This research is considered vital, as less than 1,300 wild Asian elephants remain in Laos.[13] In addition, two extinct subspecies are considered to have existed:

  • The Chinese elephant is sometimes separated as E. m. rubridens (pink-tusked elephant); it disappeared after the 14th century BC.[citation needed]
  • The Syrian elephant (E. m. asurus), the westernmost and the largest subspecies of the Asian elephant, became extinct around 100 BC. This population, along with the Indian elephant, was considered the best war elephant in antiquity, and was found superior to the smallish North African elephant (Loxodonta africana pharaoensis) used by the armies of Carthage.[citation needed]
Other Languages
العربية: فيل آسيوي
অসমীয়া: হাতী
azərbaycanca: Asiya fili
беларуская: Азіяцкі слон
беларуская (тарашкевіца)‎: Азіяцкі слон
български: Азиатски слон
brezhoneg: Olifant Azia
čeština: Slon indický
español: Elephas maximus
Esperanto: Azia elefanto
hrvatski: Azijski slon
Bahasa Indonesia: Gajah asia
interlingua: Elephas maximus
italiano: Elephas maximus
latviešu: Āzijas zilonis
lingála: Nzɔku ya Azía
മലയാളം: ഏഷ്യൻ ആന
Bahasa Melayu: Gajah Asia
Nederlands: Aziatische olifant
日本語: アジアゾウ
português: Elefante-asiático
Simple English: Asian elephant
slovenčina: Slon ázijský
slovenščina: Azijski slon
српски / srpski: Азијски слон
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Azijski slon
தமிழ்: ஆசிய யானை
Türkçe: Asya fili
українська: Слон індійський
Tiếng Việt: Voi châu Á
粵語: 亞洲象
Zazaki: Filê Asya
中文: 亚洲象