The range of the Asian elephant (Elephas maximus) not so long ago covered a vast reach from northeastern China to nearly the shores of the Mediterranean. That range has diminished to less than 15% and within it the territory occupied by elephants is now less than the size of Spain. Numbers have fallen dramatically with no more than 50,00 elephants surviving.
Habitat destruction is undoubtedly the greatest threat facing wild elephants throughout the region. Deforestation sometimes comes from logging, sometimes by rapidly growing human populations clearing land for agriculture, but the result is the same for elephants: the loss of their home. Most past logging was done by capturing wild elephants and then training them to drag logs, ironically forcing elephants to contribute to their own ruin. Clearing forests for agriculture by inevitably leads to elephants raiding crops and then to the farmers’ retribution, resulting in many dead and injured elephants. Habitat destruction also leads to fragmented, isolated populations and the subsequent danger of inbreeding.