Asian Elephant

Conservation Status

IUCN: Endangered  |  CITES: Appendix I  |  ESA: Endangered


State of the Species

  • The current population assessments for this species indicate a size of 41,000 to 52,000 individuals; however, these estimates remain crude given the challenging nature of finding individuals that dwell in dense forest over difficult terrain.
  • The original range of the Asian elephant has shrunk from over 3 million mi2 (9 million km2) to 188,000 mi2 (486,800 km2). Local extinctions began centuries ago, and the species now exists in isolated populations due to habitat fragmentation.
  • The largest populations (at least 2,500 individuals) occur in India, Myanmar, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, and Thailand. Smaller populations (fewer than 1000 individuals) exist in Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, China, Lao PDR, Nepal, and Vietnam.

AZA Member Activity

Between 2011 and 2015, 29 AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums reported taking part in a variety of field conservation projects benefiting Asian elephants, including the mainland, Sumatran, and Sri Lankan subspecies. Over those five years alone, the AZA community invested over $1.6 million in Asian elephant conservation. Additionally, facilities reported donating over $1.1 million to the International Elephant Foundation (IEF), and AZA Conservation Partner. The IEF is a charitable corporation dedicated to the global conservation of elephants through allocation of funds towards projects and species in need - support from AZA facilities to the IEF was directed to both Asian and African elephants.

Learn more about these projects, along with other field conservation and research efforts undertaken by AZA member institutions, by visiting AZA's Conservation and Research Database. Institutions report projects and update existing projects on a yearly basis, and these data are used for AZA's Annual Report on Conservation and Science and related publications.

AZA SAFE Actions to Date

  • Two AZA members attended the 8th IUCN SSC Asian Elephant Specialist Group (AsESG) meeting in Guwahati, India to represent AZA SAFE.  This meeting brought together 77 Asian elephant conservation experts from 12 of the 13 range countries where wild elephant populations exist.  This was the first such meeting of this group in 14 years and served to reinvigorate the AsESG, provide an update on the status of Asian elephant conservation range-wide, and set next steps for conservation of this endangered species.  The information garnered from this meeting will serve as the foundation from which representatives from AZA,  AsESG, range countries, and NGOs will collaboratively develop the conservation projects that will be included in the SAFE Asian Elephant Conservation Action Plan.

AZA Animal Program Leaders

Elephant TAG Chair: Martha Fischer, Saint Louis Zoo
Elephant TAG Vice Co-Chairs:
David Hagan, Indianapolis Zoological Society, Inc. and Charlie Gray, African Lion Safari
Asian Elephant SSP Coordinator:
Martha Fischer, Saint Louis Zoo
Asian Elephant SSP Vice Coordinator:
Charlie Gray, African Lion Safari
Studbook Keeper:
Cory Nordin, Saint Louis Zoo
Elephant TAG/SSP Education Advisors:
Jennifer Wilson, Cleveland Metroparks Zoo
SSP Field Conservation Advisors:
Peter Leimgruber, SCBI & Deborah Olson, International Elephant Foundation


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