Elephants at sanctuary locations in India

6 sanctuary locations has kept elephants in India
There is presently 51 (13,38) living elephants in sanctuary locations in India (in this database)

Region: India is in this database included in asiaOther regions
Wild elephants:

India has about 27,312 (min. 26000, max. 28000) wild elephants. Source:Baskaran et al. (2011)

Location holdings:

6 sanctuary locations has kept 62 elephants in India

(Database tables with collection of elephants further down on the page)

Elephants in sanctuary locations51 (13,38) living11 (4,7) dead
Sex ratio and
 Male  13 / 51 
 Female  38 / 51 
 Free contact  48 / 51 
 Protected contact  0 / 51  0%
 No contact  0 / 51  0%
 Unknown contact  0 / 51  0%
 wild  0 / 51  0%

1840: Elephants need for timber extraction were secured from various sources within India, including transfers .from the army Commissariat, as well as from the wild as was done by the Bengal government Khedda establishment which was created in Dacca in the early 1840. (Krishnamurthy 2002)

2000: A survey by Project Elephant in 2000 found a total of 3,400 captive elephants: 2,540 privately owned, 190 in temples, 480 with forest departments, almost 150 in zoos and circuses.

2001: India’s first elephant reserve was created in Jharkhand in 2001 under Project Elephant.
2005: India has around 21,300 elephants in 11 elephant ranges in India, according to the last census in 2005. The country also has 4,000 captive elephants, 800 of which are in Kerala. (Cheeran et al)
2007: 27, 700 elephants (census 2007-2008)

2009: A decision was made to relocate elephants from Zoos and circuses to forest elephants camps in more natural surrondings.

2011: According to the 2007 census, there are 27,669 to 27,715 elephants in its various reserves and habitats as against 25,604 in 1993.

2017: According to the country’s first ever synchronised Elephant Census conducted in 2017, there are 27,312 elephants across 23 states. According to the report, released by the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change on August 12, Karnataka has the highest number of elephants (6,049), followed by Assam (5,719) and Kerala (3,054). In 2012, there were 1,559 elephants in Uttarakhand, and their population rose to 1,839 by 2017.
A maximum of 14,005 tuskers are in Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra followed by 9,305-9,355 in northeastern regions with Assam having the highest number of 5,281 pachyderms. Eastern states, including Jharkhand, Orissa and Chhattisgarh have 2,633 elephants while in Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh their population is 1,726, the data said.

2019: A committee was formed to prepare a National Elephant Action Plan.

2020-10-05: The Union environment ministry has proposed an amendment to the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 to accord legal status to elephant reserves and corridors on the lines of tiger reserves. With the proposed amendment, the ministry proposes to have a similar legal framework for 30 elephant reserves across 15 states and statutory status for Project Elephant. India is home to about 30,000 elephants, or 60% of the global Asian elephant population.

Human elephant conflict (HEC)

Home to ca 60 percent of Asias elephants, India has the highest death rate from human-elephant conflict, with 200-250 people and 100 elephants killed annually. Habitat fragmentation, poaching of tusked males, and patchy forest law enforcement are problems, but numbers are rebounding.

2020: According to data shared with the Lok Sabha on September 23, close to 2,300 people were killed by elephants in the past five years until 2019, which was 10 times the number killed by tigers. Also, 400 elephants were killed by poachers or through poisoning by local residents. The Lok Sabha reply revealed that at least 433 people have been killed across West Bengal between April 2014 and September 2019. In Odisha, Jharkhand and Chhattishgarh, the death toll was 447, 391 and 329, respectively, during the period.

Captive elephants

2000: A survey by Project Elephant in 2000 found a total of 3,400 captive elephants: 2,540 privately owned, 190 in temples, 480 with forest departments, almost 150 in zoos and circuses. According to R. Sukumar, chairman of the Centre for Ecological Sciences at the premier Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore, 3,500 of the estimated 14,000 captive Asian elephants can be found in India.

Many of them in temples and camps where they were used as live tractors for timber logging. Today those elephants are often used as tourist riding elephants in previous teak forests that has been transfered to protected areas.

In 2009, a decision was made to relocate elephants from Zoos and circuses to forest elephants camps in more natural surrondings.

2009: According to Dr B K Gupta, evaluation and monitoring officer of CZA, India had 140 elephants in 26 zoos and 16 circuses as on March 31 2009. Of these, Mysore and Trivandrum had the largest number at 9 and 8 respectively.

2009: According to the report "Captive Elephants in Zoo", (Varma, S., Sujata, S.R., Sarma, K.K., Bhanage, N., Agarwal, M., and Bhavsar, S. (2008). Captive Elephants in Zoos: An Investigation into the Welfare and Management of Captive Elephants in Zoos of India. Elephants in Captivity CUPA/ANCFTechnical Report No 4. Compassion Unlimited Plus Action (CUPA) and Asian Nature Conservation Foundation (ANCF), Bangalore, India): Andhra Pradesh had 7 elephants in 1 zoo, Assam had 9 in 1 zoo, Gujarat had 4 elephants in 2 zoos (2,2,), Karnataka had 16 elephants in 2 zoos, Kerala 1, Maharashtra 7 in 3 zoos, and Tamil Nadu had 6 elephants in 1 zoo. Among these elephants there were 32 females and 17 males (Source online publication

2020-09-21: India plans to build a biometric database and issue an ID number for every elephant in captivity across the country after the death of a pregnant female prompted an outcry. Blood samples will be taken from close to 3,000 elephants. Each will be given a unique identity number based on their DNA, under the plan set out by the government-backed conservation group Project Elephant.


2020: As per the last all-India survey, there are 8,500 elephants in Karnataka.
2008: About 163 captive elephants under five different management regimes. (Captive Elephants of Karnataka, 2008)
2018: Karnataka’s elephant camps have about 95 elephants and about 42 elephants were housed in the State zoos. (B.P. Ravi, 2018)


Kerala has a population of around 520 captive elephants (P.K. Kesavan , 2018). The Temple at Guruvayoor owns the largest herd of 65. Of the 702 captives in the state, only 118 are females, less than 17 per cent of the total captive population. And of the 118, more than 60 per cent have crossed the reproductive age. There is no record of a pregnancy as a result of a union between two captive elephants in the state. In the last four years two female elephants delivered, one in Kollam and another in Kottayam, but both had conceived in Assam.

2009: By 2009, about 700 elephants were in captivity across the state of Kerala: Private individuals owned 508 elephants, temples had 174, forest camps had 8 and a zoo was home to 2 elephants.

2018: 521 captive elephants in State of Kerala as per recent census. As many as 30 captive elephants are at the elephant camps at Wayanad, Karippa, Konni and Kottoor. There are 401 male elephants, 22 tuskless elephants (males?) and 98 female elephants as per the census conducted on November 29.

Tamil Nadu

In Tamil Nadu (formerly the Madras Presidency) the Forest-Department had been maintaining elephants for over 140 years. In the Anamallais, the elephant camp was located in Sungam (now in Kerala) till the state reorganization in 1956. Subsequently in 1956 the camp was shifted to Varagaliar in the Ulandy valley and continues there. The Theppakkadu Elephant Camp was established in 1927 in Mudumalai Range. In the Anamallais where large areas were cleared for planting with teak, elephant capturing operation was taken up in 1889 and until and up to 1972 more than 600 elephants were captured from wild to meet the demand for working elephants. In Mudumalai, elephant capturing was taken up in 1910 and continued till 1953. (Krishnamurthy 2002)

2002: at Mudhumalai 27 elephants (12 at Theppakadu camp, 15 at Abhayaranyam camp) 16 in AnamaIlais(9 at Varagaliar camp, 1 at Kozhikamuthi camp and 6 are deputed for "anti elephant depredation work" surrounding tea gardens at Valaparai and at Manomboli), 5 elephants in Arignar Anna Zoolologica) Park and one at the Childrens Comer, Guindy. Thus in total there are 49 animals on the roll overall under the management of Govt. of Tamil Nadu.

Recommended Citation

Koehl, Dan, Facts about elephants in India. Elephant Encyclopedia, (2021) available online retrieved at https://www.elephant.se/country.php?name=India.
(archived at the Wayback machine)

Sources, among others

Internal relevant links

  • The elephant database startpage. Statistics
  • News about elephants in India (From the sister site Elephant News)

  • NameElephant collectionTypePlaceDistrictProvinceStateRegion
    Agra Elephant Haven Rescue Centre (AERC)
    Kept totally 5 elephants
    , 0 present (0,0) 0 births4 relocated1 deathssanctuary AgraUttar Pradesh
    Hunsur Elephant Rescue Centre
    Kept totally 2 elephants
    , 2 present (1,1) 0 births0 relocated0 deathssanctuaryHunsurMysore
    Jamnagar temple trust
    Kept totally 4 elephants
    , 4 present (0,4) 0 births0 relocated0 deathssanctuaryJamnagarGujarat
    Kottoor elephant rehabilitation centre (ERC)
    Kept totally 27 elephants
    , 21 present (9,12) 0 births2 relocated4 deathssanctuaryKattakkada Taluk
    Thiruvananthapuram districtKerala
    M. R. Palayam Thiruchinapaili Elephant Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre (ERRC)
    Kept totally 7 elephants
    , 7 present (0,7) 0 births0 relocated0 deathssanctuaryThiruchinapaili
    Tamil Nadu
    Mathura Elephant Care Centre (Wildlife SOS India)
    Kept totally 23 elephants
    , 17 present (3,14) 0 births0 relocated6 deathssanctuaryMathura
    Uttar Pradesh

    This document was updated: 2020-10-29 07:28:47

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