Asian elephant

Donna and baby Sam the elephant


Asian elephant

What they look like

Asian elephants are dark brown or grey in colour and feature sparse amounts of hair on their head and back. Smaller than an African elephant, a good way to tell them apart is by their ears, African elephant's ears are more rounded than the Asian elephant.

Animal facts

  • Amazingly, Asian elephants are more closely related to the extinct woolly mammoth than to the African elephant.
  • The elephant’s tusks are elongated teeth (upper incisors) and tend to be larger in Asian bull elephants than in the African.
  • The four grinding teeth (molars) wear out and are replaced by new teeth from the back of the jaws; the Asian elephant gets through six sets of teeth during its lifetime.

What they eat

Vegetation, fruit, twigs, small branches, bark and roots.


Mountains and forest.

Where they live

India, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Indonesia and Southern China.


Habitat loss, degradation, fragmentation and poaching. 


ZSL's conservation work with Asian elephants

Asian elephants are classified as endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, and due to habitat loss, human conflict and poaching their wild populations are in decline.

The species are also listed on ZSL’s EDGE (Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered) list, meaning there is a particularly urgent need for conservation action. 

As part of its global conservation efforts, ZSL is currently working in Thailand, a major stronghold for Asian elephants, to reduce human-wildlife conflict and ensure the peaceful coexistence of elephants and humans.

Discover more about our conservation work


Conservation Status