Elephants of The World

Home / Elephants of The World

Elephants of the World

At present, there are three extant species of elephants. African savanna elephants (Loxodonta africana) and African forest elephants (Loxodonta cyclotis) live in Africa while Asian elephants (Elephas maximus) distribute in Asia and also on islands of Sri Lanka, Sumatra, and Borneo. The image below shows the distribution area of these three elephants species and also the subspecies of Asian elephants.

elephant of the world
ภาพช้างวาดโดย ภควัต ทวีปวรเดช

Differences between African and Asian Elephants

African elephants normally have an average body height taller than Asian elephants at adult age about 1 meter or 3 feet. African elephants’ ears are larger than Asian elephants and look like Africa-shaped ears. The head of African elephants has a single dome while the head of Asian elephants has a twin dome. Tuskes or elephants’ elongated incisors are also the main difference used to differentiate between Asian and African elephants. Both sexes of African elephants have a pair of tusk. In contrast, only some male Asian elephants are tusked.

Illustrated by Phakhawat Thaweepworadej.

African elephants

Both African savanna and forest elephants live in Africa. The main differences between these two species are their habitat and body sizes. African savanna elephants live in savanna habitats, the same as their names suggested. They are found in the savanna of Kenya, Zambia, or the Republic of Namibia. On the contrary, African forest elephants live in the tropical rainforests on the central African continent which can be found in Gabon and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Moreover, savanna elephants also have larger body sizes compare to forest elephants. The conservation status of both species is “Vulnerable” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

African savanna elephant
African savanna elephant, Photo by Absalom Robinson from Pexels

Asian elephants

The Asian elephants can be separated into four subspecies.

  • Mainland or Indian elephants (Elephas maximus indicus) are found in mainland of Asia. This subspecies has the largest distribution area compare to the other subspecies.
  • Sri Lankan elephants (Elephas maximus maximus) distribute only on the island of Sri Lanka. This subspecies has the largest body size and the darkest skin color compared to other subspecies.
  • Sumatran elephants (Elephas maximus sumatranus) are found in Sumatra Island of Indonesia. Although their body resembles the mainland elephants, their population is in the risk of extinction due to intense habitat loss.
  • Borneo elephants (Elephas maximus borneensis) or Borneo dwarf elephants are the smallest living elephants in the present day. Their habitat is in the fragmented forests of Borneo Island.
Asian elephant
Photo by Mohamed Nuzrath from Pixabay
Asian elephant
Asian elephant, photo by pen ash from Pixabay

Blanc, J. 2008. Loxodonta africana.  The IUCN Red List of Threaten Species 2008: e.T12392A3339343.
Choudhury, A., Lahiri Choudhury, D.K., Desai, A., Duckworth, J.W., Easa, P.S., Johnsingh, A.J.T., Fernando, P., Hedges, S., Gunawardena, M., Kurt, F., Karanth, U., Lister, A., Menon, V., Riddle, H., Rübel, A. & Wikramanayake, E. (IUCN SSC Asian Elephant Specialist Group) 2008. Elephas maximus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2008: e.T7140A12828813.
Fernando P, Vidya TNC, Payne J, Stuewe M, Davison G, Alfred RJ, et al. (2003) DNA Analysis Indicates That Asian Elephants Are Native to Borneo and Are Therefore a High Priority for Conservation. PLoS Biology, 1(1): e6. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.0000006.