The Asian Elephant is a fascinating animal that was once widespread throughout Asia. However, loss of habitat and poaching has forced remaining populations into heavily forested, inaccessible regions.

December 2020 update: Melbourne Zoo is excited to welcome bull elephant Luk Chai from Taronga Western Plains Zoo Dubbo! While he’s getting used to his new home, he may not be on display when you visit the zoo so the best place to stay-up-date with what Luk Chai is up to is via our YouTube and Facebook pages.

We’ll update this webpage when he’s settled in and on display all the time.

Asian Elephants can be found in Sri Lanka, Laos, Thailand, Burma, China, Malaysia, India, Indonesia and Cambodia. There are fewer than 53,000 remaining throughout Asia, and the wild population is decreasing.

Baby elephant Man Jai when he was one day old in 2013.
Baby elephant Man Jai when he was one day old in 2013.

At Melbourne Zoo, their home is the award-winning Trail of the Elephants, which allows the elephants space to roam and forage and move between different paddocks as they please.

Elephants are matriarchal, meaning the females live in a herd together while the males live by themselves or in small bachelor groups in the wild. We replicate this natural behaviour at Melbourne Zoo with our multi-generational, cohesive, female herd.

Multiple 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.

Melbourne Zoo’s first-ever calf, Mali, was the first female elephant born in Australia.

In the wild, the Asian Elephant eats leaves, flowers, fruits, shrubs, grasses and roots. 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.

Facts about Asian Elephants

  • Elephant tusks are a modified form of upper incisors: the front teeth that many animals use for cutting food.
  • The trunk is used for feeding, watering, smelling, touching, communicating, lifting, dusting, and fighting.
  • Their trunks can hold up to 8.5L of water.

Meet the animals

Female elephant throwing dirt over her head with her trunk.
Mek Kapah

Melbourne Zoo's oldest elephant, Mek Kapah arrived at the Zoo on May 11 1978 from Malaysia. She is the matriarch (leader) of the herd.

Female elephant eating from a pile of lettuce.

Kulab arrived on November 5 2006 from Thailand. In 2010, she gave birth to Melbourne Zoo's first male calf, Ongard, who is now part of an breeding program in America.

Female elephant with a younger elephant on either side.

Dokkoon arrived at Melbourne Zoo on November 5 2006 from Thailand. In 2010 she gave birth to Melbourne Zoo's first elephant calf, Mali, and then in 2013 she gave birth to Man Jai.

Two Asian Elephant with trunk raised as if reaching towards the camera.

Num-Oi arrived at Melbourne Zoo on November 5 2006 from Thailand. You can pick Num-Oi apart from the other elephants in the herd by her distended stomach which is a result of her diet before arriving at Melbourne Zoo from Thailand. Num-Oi has had two pregnancies but sadly both calves died at a young age.

Luk Chai

Born 4 July 2009 at Taronga Zoo Sydney, Luk Chai, meaning "male child" or "son" in Thai, is an energetic, inquisitive and confident male elephant who loves a splash around in the pool. He arrived at Melbourne Zoo in December 2020 for social and breeding opportunities with our female herd and social opportunities with our other male adolescent, Man Jai.

Female elephant holding straw in her trunk.

Born 16 January 2010, Mali was the first elephant to be born at Melbourne Zoo. She is a big sister to Man Jai and a mini-matriarch in the making. Like her late father Bong Su, Mali has a zig-zag tail that makes her easy to spot in the herd. Mali means 'jasmine' in Thai.

Man Jai the Asian Elephant. Looking into a young male elephant's mouth as his trunk is raised above his head.
Man Jai

Born 8 December 2013, Man Jai, which means 'confident' in Thai is the resident rascal of the herd. He is Dokkoon’s second baby and can often be seen playing with his mum, or big sister Mali.

See the elephant keeper talk at 11am each day.

Population Trend:
Number left in the wild:

Conservation Status

  • LC
    Least Concern
  • NT
    Near Threatened
  • VU
  • EN
  • CR
    Critically Endangered
  • EW
    Extinct in the Wild
  • EX