Asian elephants in the Greater Mekong region | WWF

Asian elephants in the Greater Mekong region

Although many thousands of domesticated Asian elephants are found in Southeast Asia, this magnificent animal is threatened by extinction in the wild.

At the root of the problem is a burgeoning human population and large infrastructure developments in the Greater Mekong region, which are fragmenting the species' habitat

Status of the Asian elephant in Greater Mekong countries

In the Greater Mekong, Asian elephants are distributed across an area spanning approximately 300,000 km2. But despite this vast range, there are fewer and fewer of the species in the wild. Today, between 7,000 and 10,000 individuals remain.

Why are elephants threatened?

  • Habitat loss and fragmentation: The Asian elephants' habitat is shrinking fast and wild elephant populations are mostly small, isolated, and unable to mingle as ancient migratory routes are cut off by human settlements and large development projects (such as dams, roads, mines and industrial complexes), plantations and human settlements. A substantial proportion of the world's population lives in or near the present range of the Asian elephant, which leads to elephant-human conflict. 
  • Illegal hunting and trade: In Asian elephants, only males carry tusks and therefore poaching is aimed exclusively at males. Poaching of Asian elephants for ivory and meat remains a serious problem in many countries, and especially across the Thai-Myanmar border.
  • Capture of wild elephants:  Capturing wild elephants for domestic use undermines wild populations. India, Vietnam, and Myanmar have banned capture in order to conserve their wild herds, but in Myanmar elephants are still caught each year for the timber industry or the illegal wildlife trade.  

As the numbe of big tuskers dwindles, there is concern about the genetic effects. When tuskers are killed, the number of males in a population decreases, resulting in skewed sex ratios. This may lead to inbreeding and eventually to high juvenile mortality and overall low breeding success. 

How is WWF protecting Asian elephants in the Greater Mekong region?

What WWF is doing for elephants in the region
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