Asian elephant

Elephas maximus

Asian elephants live in South and Southeast Asia in a wide range of habitats; from thick jungle to grassy plains, from sea level up to 10,000 feet. They are herbivores.

Asian elephant behavior and facts

  • Asian elephants eat bamboo, fruit, leaves, shoots and grasses.
  • They are shorter and heavier than African elephants. Asian elephants have rounded backs, small ears and relatively smooth skin while African elephants have dipped backs, large ears (shaped like the African continent) and very wrinkly skin.
  • Elephants use their trunks to communicate, touch, eat, drink and smell. Hundreds of muscles make the trunk strong, flexible and deft, it can lift heavy logs or pluck a single leaf from a tree. Elephants can even use their trunks like snorkels to breathe underwater.
  • Some males have tusks, long incisor teeth that grow up to 5 feet long. Most females and many males have tushes, much smaller teeth that lack a central nerve (unlike tusks).
  • Asian elephants are highly social and form strong bonds with other herd members. Females and calves live in multigenerational, matriarchal herds, while adult males spend time away from herds and in "bachelor" herds.
  • Their range varies, but is generally very large: from 11 to 133 square miles for elephants in Sri Lanka, to more than 231 square miles for elephants in south India.

From birth to death

  • Gestation: 20 to 22 months
  • A single calf is born
  • At birth the mother is attended by other adult females ("aunties").
  • Sexual maturity: Females 6 to 10 years old; males 8 to 12 years old
  • Lifespan: 60 to 70 years

Vital statistics

  • Weight: 6,000 to 13,000 pounds
  • Height: 7 to 10 feet at the shoulder


Endangered under the U.S. Endangered Species Act, CITES Appendix I and the IUCN Red List. The Association of Zoos and Aquariums coordinates an Asian elephant Species Survival Plan, of which the Oregon Zoo is a participant.

Asian elephants, the Oregon Zoo and you

The zoo's elephants live in the Asian Elephants exhibit. They eat fresh produce, hay, oats and enrichment treats like seasonal vegetables and plant clippings. The oldest elephant at the zoo, Packy, is large for an Asian elephant. He weighs 12,500 pounds and stands 10 feet, 6 inches at the shoulder.

As the world's population continues to expand, the biggest threats to Asian elephants are habitat loss or degradation, and fragmentation of the wide ranges the elephants require. Poaching and conflicts with humans are other threats.

Asian elephants at the Oregon Zoo

Heights and weights as of March 2012.


Packy is a 10'6" tall, 12,500-pound male Asian elephant. He was born to Thonglaw and Belle, on April 14, 1962, the first elephant born in the Western Hemisphere in 44 years. Packy has sired 7 calves, including Sung-Surin. He can be identified by his massive size, a kink in his tail, and his tushes (small tusks with no pulp inside.)...


Tusko is a 13,300-pound wild-caught male Asian elephant born around 1971. He arrived at the Oregon Zoo on June 19, 2005. Tusko has four offspring. He can be identified by his very large head and the big 'bulbs' on his forehead. He has no visible tusks and is blind in his right eye, making it appear blue...


Rose-Tu is a 7,215-pound female Asian elephant. She was born on August 31, 1994 at the Oregon Zoo to Hugo and Me-Tu. Rose-Tu is the second smallest of the cows...


Chendra is a 4,545-pound female Asian elephant born in Sabah, Malaysia in 1993. She is the only Borneo pygmy elephant living in the U.S.  Malaysian wildlife officials found her wandering - orphaned, alone and hungry - near a palm oil plantation in Borneo. She had wounds on her front legs and left eye, which ultimately left her blind in that eye...


Sung-Surin "Shine" is a 7,900-pound female Asian elephant. She was born on December 26, 1982 at the Oregon Zoo to Packy and Pet. Sung-Surin means "sunshine" in Thai. She is distinguished by a slit in the lower margin of her right ear...


Lily is a female Asian elephant born at the Oregon Zoo at 2:17 a.m. on Nov. 30, 2012. She weighed a hefty 300 pounds at birth and has been described by zoo animal-care staff as a "spitfire." Lily's mother is Rose-Tu, her father is Tusko and her brother is Samudra...