Pages Menu
Categories Menu

Asian Elephant Distribution

The Status and Geographical Distribution of Asian Elephants

The Asian Elephant population is officially listed as highly endangered and is under threat across the whole of its current range. The situation is so serious that the elephant is in real danger of being extinct within three generations.

Six thousand years ago, the Asian elephant ranged over a vast area spreading from what is now modern day Iraq and Syria, across the whole swathe of the Indian sub continent, southeast Asia and up into central China. Large populations were also found on the islands of Sri Lanka, Indonesia and Borneo. It is reasonable to assume that elephants numbered in the millions. As human populations increased, the elephant came under pressure and its range began to reduce. However, even in the 17th century the numbers of elephants were vast. We know for a fact that the Mughal Emperor Jehangir had 113,000 captive elephants in his Empire.

No accurate figures are available for 100 years ago, but in Thailand alone it is estimated that there were over 100,000 elephants so extrapolating by taking Thailand’s current percentage of the population we can estimate that in 1900 there were as many as a million elephants across Asia. Today the total stands at between 38,534 and 52,566 wild elephants and 14,535 and 15,300 domesticated elephants in Asia, with perhaps another 1,000 scattered around zoos in the rest of the world.

The Elephant Population in Asia

Asian elephant population figures

These figures are provided by Raman Sukumar in 2006 from the IUCN/SSC Asian Elephant Specialist Group in 2004.

Asian Elephant Distribution

Asian Elephant Distribution Map

The Range of the Asian elephant has been dramatically reduced

Not only has the total number of Asian elephants dramatically declined, but there has also been a catastrophic shrinkage in the elephants’ geographical range. The reduction of elephant habitat as shown in the map below has left remaining populations struggling in isolated pockets.