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Melbourne Zoo

Asian Elephant

Few visitors to the Zoo would skip a visit to see this fascinating group. Their home is the award-winning Trail of the Elephants, which allows the elephants considerable scope to roam and forage: it is estimated they travel as far (or further) than elephants living in natural non-extreme environments (6.21–15.00km/day vs. 5–10 km/day).

The Asian Elephant was once widespread throughout Asia. However, loss of habitat and poaching has forced remaining populations into heavily forested, inaccessible regions in south and South-East Asia. Countries in which the Asian Elephant may be found include Sri Lanka, Laos, Thailand, Burma, China, Malaysia, India, Indonesia (on the island of Sumatra) and Cambodia. There may be fewer than 53,000 animals remaining throughout Asia and the wild population is decreasing.

Five pregnancies have been achieved since Melbourne Zoo established the Cooperative Conservation Breeding Program upon the arrival of three young elephant cows from Thailand in November 2006. The aim of the breeding program is to create an insurance population of this endangered species. Melbourne Zoo’s first-ever calf Mali is also the first female elephant born in Australia and the first elephant born in Australia to be conceived through artificial insemination.

In the wild the Asian Elephant eats leaves, flowers, fruits, shrubs, grasses and roots. An adult elephant may eat up to 170kg of food, drink 90L of water, and produce up to 75kg of faeces per day. Herds of Asian Elephants occasionally feed on fruit trees growing on plantations bordering the forests, causing thousands of dollars of damage. To prevent this, guards patrol the boundaries of farms and use spotlights and fire crackers to scare the elephants away.

At Melbourne Zoo the herd’s diet is mostly hay and lucerne, along with treats of carrots, apples, bread, sugar cane, bamboo, and leafy branches. The Zoo’s elephants are contributors to the compost production at Melbourne Zoo, which is sold in garden centres as Zoo Gro.

Trail of the Elephants is proudly supported by gold partner ANZ


Born 16 January 2010

The first offspring for her mother Dokkoon and father Bong Su. Mali means 'jasmine' in Thai.


Born 10 September 2010

Ongard, meaning ‘brave and bold' in Thai. Born to father Bong Su and mother Kulab.

Man Jai

Born 8 December 2013

Man Jai, which means 'confident' in Thai. Mother Dokkoon’s second baby and father Bong Su.


Kulab arrived on the 5th November 2006 from Thailand. 

Kulab is the mother of male calf Ongard, now aged five.


Num-Oi arrived on the 5th November 2006 from Thailand.

Num-Oi’s first calf Sanook died in a tragic accident, playing with a hanging tire in the barn one evening. Num-Oi’s second pregnancy is also the result of AI, but the donor is Perth Zoo’s bull Putra Mas. Num-Oi could be giving birth any day.


Dokkoon arrived on the 5th November 2006 from Thailand.

Dokkoon was the first of the three to give birth, to female calf Mali, now six years old, and she is also the mother of two-year-old male calf Man Jai.

Mek Kapah

Mek Kapah arrived on the 11th May 1978 from Malaysia.

Bong Su

Bong Su arrived on the 1st February 1977 from Malaysia.

The first four calves (Mali, Ongard, Sanook and Man Jai) at Melbourne Zoo were all sired by the Zoo’s male, Bong Su, via artificial insemination (AI).

Bong Su in the mud wallow

Bong Su's 40th Anniversary

Asian Elephant bull Bong Su celebrated the 40th anniversary of his arrival at Melbourne Zoo today.

1 February 2017
Mali birthday video

Seventh Birthday Milestone for Mali

Asian Elephant Mali took no time at all to deconstruct her birthday treat today!

Keepers put together an impressive layer ‘cake’ made up of 200kg of celery layered with lemon grass and decorated with bright coloured fruit and vegetables, featuring large white radishes as ‘candles’.

16 January 2017
  • The female Asian Elephant reaches sexual maturity at 10 years of age
  • Elephant tusks are a modified form of upper incisors: the front teeth that many animals use for cutting food
  • The ears of the Asian Elephant assist in cooling the animal. Heat is circulated to blood vessels located close to the skin of the ears and is diffused into the air
  • The trunk of the Asian Elephant is used for feeding, watering, smelling, touching, communicating, lifting, dusting and fighting
  • The trunk of an Asian Elephant can hold up to 8.5L of water