World Elephant Day 2022: Basics Explained

World Elephant Day is observed on August 12 every year to raise awareness about their plight, the need to protect them, and the measure that can be taken to ensure their survival. Elephants are faced with an existential crisis, from illegal ivory trade to increased conflict with humans over habitats.

There are three species of elephants — African Forest, African Savanna (bush), and Asian. The animals can be differentiated by their ears and trunks. African elephants are larger. Their ears are also larger and shaped like Africa.

Around 4.15 lakh African elephants are still left in the wild, according to the World Wide Fund For Nature. Asian elephants have witnessed a 50% decline in their population in the past 75 years. Their numbers now vary between 20,000 and 40,000 in the wild.

Elephants can live up to 60-70 years in the wild. The animals are highly intelligent creatures, similar to apes and dolphins, and are capable of showing emotions such as empathy, grief, and compassion.

The Asian elephant (Elephas maximus), is distributed throughout the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia. It is the largest living land animal in Asia. Three subspecies are currently recognised: the Sri Lankan, the Indian, and the Sumatran elephant.

Smaller than their African counterparts, Asian elephants are easily recognizable by their “small” rounded ears.




20,000 – 25,000


Elephas maximus indicus


6-11 feet at the shoulder


5 tons


up to 21 feet


Subtropical broadleaf forest, tropical broadleaf moist forest, dry forest, grassland

Asian elephants are poached for their ivory tusks, but unlike their African cousins only male Asian elephants have tusks. Every poaching event further skews the sex ratio which contrains breeding rates for the species.

The quest for land by an increasing human population throughout the Indian elephant’s habitat is leaving little room for them. Illegal encroachment into protected areas and forest clearing for roads or other development are all causing habitat loss and fragmentation. Habitat loss not only leaves elephants without reliable food sources and shelter

The Indian elephant (Elephas maximus) is found in the central and southern Western Ghats, North East India, eastern India and northern India and in some parts of southern peninsular India. It is included in Schedule I of the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 and in Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Flora and Fauna (CITES).

According to the 2017 census, Karnataka had the highest number of elephants (6,049), followed by Assam (5,719) and Kerala (3,054). India launched ‘Project Elephant’ in 1992. Under the project, the government provides technical and financial help to states to save elephants.

Agasthiyamalai will be the country’s 32nd elephant reserve, adding another 1,197 sq km of protected area dedicated to. This has brought the total area under elephant reserves in India to about 76,508 sq km across 14 states.


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