Elephants have been domesticated and used by humans for thousands of years. In ancient Rome, elephants were trained as circus animals. In 218 B.C., Hannibal, a Carthaginian general, used elephants to transport his army across the Alps in a campaign against Rome. Elephants were first used as draft animals more than 2,000 years ago in India. They were also used to transport Indian royalty.

Today, elephants are used in Asia in the lumber industry to lift and pull heavy logs and in other industries to perform lifting tasks.

For centuries, elephants have been slaughtered for their tusks, which are a source of ivory. Due to indiscriminate hunting for their tusks and meat, and destruction of their habitat, both species of elephants are threatened with extinction. In 1989, more than 100 countries agreed to participate in an international moratorium on the trade of ivory and other elephant products. Some countries, however, as well as black marketeers, continue to trade in ivory, leaving the future of the elephant in doubt.

Elephants belong to the elephant family, Elephantidae. The African savanna elephant is Loxodonta africana; the African forest elephant, L. africana cyclotis; the Indian elephant, Elephas maximus.