Asian Elephant

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Asian Elephant
Conservation status: Endangered
Missing image
Asian Elephant

Scientific classification
Species:E. maximus
Binomial name
Elephas maximus
Linnaeus, 1758

The Asian Elephant (Elephas maximus) is a species of elephant formerly known as the Indian Elephant. It is smaller than its African relatives, and the easiest way to distinguish the two is the smaller ears of the Asian Elephant. Asian elephants tend to grow to around two to four meters (7-12 feet) in height and 3,000-5,000 kilograms (6,500-11,000 pounds) in weight.

Asian Elephants in Thailand. Image provided by Classroom Clip Art (
Asian Elephants in Thailand. Image provided by Classroom Clip Art (

Asian Elephants have other differences from their African relatives. Including a more rounded back than the African, two "fingers" at the tip of their trunks as opposed to only one, 4 nails on each hind foot instead of three, and 19 pairs of ribs instead of 21. Unlike female African Elephants, female Asian Elephants lack tusks.

This animal is widely domesticated, and has been used in forestry in Southeast Asia for centuries. Wild elephants attract tourist money to the areas where they can most readily be seen, but damage crops and may enter villages to raid gardens.

An animal of this size is potentially dangerous. Care should be taken when walking or driving at night or in the late evening in areas where wild elephants roam. Particularly, potential meetings with unpredictable adult males, or females with nearby young, are best avoided.


There are four subspecies of Asian elephant:

Indian elephant (Elephas maximus indicus)
Sri Lankan elephant (Elephas maximus maximus)
Sumatran elephant (Elephas maximus sumatrensis)
Borneo (or Pygmy) elephant (Elephas maximus borneensis)

The population in Vietnam and Laos is currently undergoing tests to determine if it is a fifth subspecies.

E.m. indicus survives in separate ranges in southern India, the Himalayan foothills, and northwest India; it is also found in southern China, Burma, Thailand, Cambodia and the Malaysian peninsula. Most males of this subspecies have tusks.
E.m. maximus is only found in Sri Lanka. It has a larger skull relative to body size, and commonly has a decolourised area of skin on the forehead and the front of the upper trunk. It is rare to find even males with tusks. Males can reach a height of 3.5 metres at the shoulder.
E.m. sumatrensis is only found in Sumatra. It is the second smallest subspecies, between 1.7 to 2.6 metres at the shoulder. It is sometimes called the pocket elephant because of its size.
E.m. borneensis is found in north Borneo (east Sabah and extreme north Kalimantan). It is smaller than all the other subspecies. It has larger ears, a longer tail, and straighter tusks. Genetic tests in 2003 found that its ancestors separated from the mainland population about 300,000 years ago


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