There are three living species: the African Bush Elephant, the African Forest Elephant (until recently known collectively as the African Elephant), and the Asian Elephant (also known as the Indian Elephant). The word "elephant" has Greek origins, meaning "ivory" or "elephant".

Elephants are mammals, and the largest land animals alive today. An elephant may live as long as 70 years, sometimes longer. The largest elephant ever recorded was shot in Angola in 1956. This male weighed about 12,000 kg. Elephants are symbols of wisdom in Asian cultures, and are famed for their exceptional memory and very high intelligence. Aristotle once said the elephant was "the beast which passeth all others in wit and mind."

Elephants are increasingly threatened by human intrusion and poaching. Once numbering in the millions, the African elephant population has dwindled to between 470,000 and 690,000 individuals. The elephant is now a protected species worldwide, with restrictions in place on capture, domestic use, and trade in products such as ivory. Elephants generally have no natural predators, although lions may take calves and occasionally adults. In some areas, lions may regularly take to preying on elephants.