Asian elephants kill, on average, nearly 400 people across India each year.1, 2

Migrating around Asia, they scarf down and stomp on people’s crops, smash their homes, and drink their liquor.


In all, elephants snarfle down the crops of at least 500,000 families in India each year (each elephant eats about 440 pounds of vegetation per day).1


The big meanies.

Except . . .

People kill elephants right on back. In addition to the more than 100 Asian elephant retaliatory killings each year, at least




are electrocuted on fences,






die from diseases like anthrax and trypanosomiasis they contract from human-owned cattle, and at least






are killed by trains (over 100 total elephants have died from trains). 2


Nobody knows how many more elephants die from getting trapped in human-dug drainage ditches, poaching, direct habitat loss, and more, so let’s not count those.

So . . .

Taking the largest estimate of total Asian elephant population today3 and the CIA’s estimate of the total population of Bhutan4 and India5, let’s compare the damage.

Elephants are 12,422 times more likely to die at the hands of humans than humans are to die from elephant-related causes.


And while humans have encroached on 80 percent of elephant-inhabited forests, elephants have damaged less than one millionth of one percent of Indian farmland. bHR_15


Maybe we’re the jerks.


Or maybe it’s a complicated problem. One that we can help fix.


Today’s an elephant double feature! Check out more about Asian elephants here at Your Wild Life, a really cool place to learn about the world around you.



Illustrated by Betsy Peters Rascoe, a Wilson, N.C., native, who is proud of her strong roots in eastern North Carolina. She graduated from NC State College of Design and now works in Raleigh as an exhibit designer. Betsy loves the challenge of finding new ways to tell a story. In her spare time, she enjoys painting fur babies; see some of her work here! (

This piece was written after interviewing NC State University outreach specialist Lisa Mills, who is working toward conservation solutions in the communities that live with elephants. Lisa’s educational outreach on Asian elephants has led local communities to help these elephants before it’s too late. She and her partners in India, Bhutan and the U.S. are embarking on a conservation journey they call Elephants on the Line: A Community-based Conservation Program. Learn about their  efforts at


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