Asian elephants occur in isolated populations in 13 range States, with an approximate total range area of almost 880,000 square kilometres equivalent to only one-tenth of the historical range as defined by the IUCN. Today Asian elephants occur in Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Malaysia, Myanmar, Thailand, and Viet Nam.
Elephants have disappeared entirely from western Asia, Iran, and most of China.
They currently occur in the following regions and countries although they are usually restricted to hilly and mountainous areas: a) Indian subcontinent: India, Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh, b) Continental southeast Asia: China, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, and Malaysia, c) Island Asia: Andaman Islands (India), Sri Lanka, Sumatra (Indonesia), and Borneo (Malaysia and Indonesia) (Sukumar 1994).
It is estimated that at the turn of the century there were more than 100,000 elephants in Asia (Santiapillai and Ramono 1992). The actual number of elephants found in the wild then and now can be only rough estimates.
The surviving population of Asian elephants is estimated between 30,000–50,000, one-tenth of the population of African elephants.
The process of trying to systematically census the densely forested regions of Asia is extremely difficult. In many countries, unfavorable political conditions hamper or prevent census work.
Small animals with large surface-to-volume ratios, such as the canary, must eat nearly constantly and maintain high metabolic rates in order to maintain the target body temperature. A large animal, like an elephant, has a much lower surface-to-volume ratio, and because it loses heat more slowly, it can afford a lower metabolic rate per gram of body weight.