Asian elephant (Elephas maximus) is the only living species of the genus Elephas and is distributed in the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia, from India and Nepal in the west to Burneo in the South. Three subspecies are currently recognized: the Sri Lankan elephant (Elephas maximus maximus), the Indian Elephant (Elephas maximus indicus) and Sumatran elephant (Elephas maximus sumatranus). Asian elephants are categorized as endangered on the IUCN Red List as their population declined by 50% in the last three generatio ns and listed in CITES Appendix I giving them protection from international trade. Nepal has devoted legal protection to Asian elephants by listing them as protected species under the National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act, 1973. Among the 13 Asian elephant range states, Nepal has approximately 2,500 km2 of elephant range with 109-142 individuals (as per 2008 estimation, DNPWC) and 208 individuals in captivity (Pradhan 2011). Wild elephants in Nepal occur in four isolated populations – eastern population in Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve and Jhapa district; central population in Chitwan National Park and Parsa National Park; western population in Bardia National Park and adjoining municipalities; and far-western population in Suklaphanta National Park and adjoining municipalities.
Classified as mega-herbivore with large dietary consumption, wild elephants have long range dispersing behavior, frequently coming into contact with human beings in the course of their movement. Recognized as a common problematic animal, especially in areas outside protected areas and forest habitats, wild elephants pose a great problem to the local communities because of their crop raiding tendency. Although their poaching is not a threat in Nepal, elephant conservation is challenged by habitat fragmentation, obstruction of migratory routes and human-elephant conflict.