There are three species of elephant worldwide: the African bush elephant, the African forest elephant, and the Asian elephant. African elephants are found across the African continent throughout the savanna zones of the Sahara Desert and into the forests of central and West Africa. Asian elephants range from the Iranian coastlines of west Asia to as far East as the Yangtze river in China. Now, however, only scattered populations remain throughout South and Southeast Asian countries.

At the turn of the 20th century, there were a few million African elephants and about 100,000 Asian elephants. Today, their wild population has remarkably dropped to 350,000-500,000 in Africa and 25,000 - 33,000 in Asia, largely due to the massive illicit poaching for ivory trade. The Asian elephant has been considered endangered by The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) since 1986.

Ever having 1,500-2,000 elephants in the 1990s, Viet Nam so far only has about 124 to 148 individuals living mainly in 8 provinces including Son La, Nghe An, Ha Tinh, Quang Nam, Dak Lak, Dak Nong, Dong Nai and Binh Phuoc. The elephant subspecies living in Viet Nam are Asian elephants, classified as Endangered in the IUCN Red List, Critically Endangered according to the Vietnam Red Book and in Appendix I of CITES. Elephant conservation has always been a concern in Viet Nam, shown through early elephant conservation programs and action plans.


Poaching is the major threat to population sustainability for elephants across the world. Elephants are hunted for the ivory trade across the globe and Viet Nam is recognized as being a large consumer of ivory products as well as a major transit hub for distribution throughout Asia. In Viet Nam, most ivory is produced into jewellery, sculptures, and religious artifacts.

What have we been doing?

WCS Viet Nam works with the Vietnamese government agencies to build capacity and inform policy which enables effective oversight of wildlife trade activities. We conduct research on crime syndicates, locations of illegal wildlife sale/production, smuggling routes which can help local law enforcement agencies with their investigations and arrests.

At the same time, we also conduct research and supervision of epidemics in wildlife and the possibility of disease transmission between people and wildlife.

We work closely with law enforcement agencies at national and local level including police and rangers and provide them technical assistance such as intelligence, species identification, legal advice to target high-level criminal networks.



Report on the Vietnam Elephant Conservation Master Project for the period 2013-2020.

Report on the implementation results of Decision No. 763/QD-TTg dated May 21, 2013 of the Prime Minister approving the Project "Overall conservation of Vietnamese elephants in the period 2013-2020.

Choudhury, A., Lahiri Choudhury, D.K., Desai, A., Duckworth, J.W., Easa, P.S., Johnsingh, A.J.T., Fernando, P., Hedges, S., Gunawardena, M., Kurt, F., Karanth, U., Lister, A., Menon, V., Riddle, H., Rübel, A. & Wikramanayake, E. (IUCN SSC Asian Elephant Specialist Group). 2008. Elephas maximus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2008. www.iucnredlist.org. Downloaded on 07 July 2017.