The Indian elephant is broadly distributed, but its main population group, which equals more than half the species' numbers, is in India with smaller populations in Borneo and the Andaman Islands. The population in Borneo was considered vestigial in 2015 and, in general, any population group outside India tends to be much smaller and less robust in terms of its breeding potential and habitat range.

Indian elephants are distributed throughout India in the central, south, northeast and northwest regions. In the west, there are populations spread throughout the forests of Ghats, both eastern and western, as well as in Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. In the north, elephant populations are concentrated in Uttar Pradesh.

In the northeast of India, elephants are found in Bhutan near the Himalaya mountain range. They are also present in Northwest Bengal and in Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Nagaland, Mizoram, Meghalaya and Tripura. Indian elephants tend to keep to forested areas where they are protected from direct sunlight and afforded ample food sources.

Indian elephants have suffered repeated habitat losses as human civilization has encroached on their territory. The two species often clash where borders overlap ,and this has caused steep reduction in world population for the Indian elephant through the years, placing them in danger of extinction.