This study examines the population genetic structure of Asian elephants (Elephas maximus) across India, which harbours over half the world's population of this endangered species. Mitochondrial DNA control region sequences and allele frequencies at six nuclear DNA microsatellite markers obtained from the dung of free-ranging elephants reveal low mtDNA and typical microsatellite diversity. Both known divergent clades of mtDNA haplotypes in the Asian elephant are present in India, with southern and central India exhibiting exclusively the β clade of Fernando et al. (2000), northern India exhibiting exclusively the α clade and northeastern India exhibiting both, but predominantly the α clade. A nested clade analysis revealed isolation by distance as the principal mechanism responsible for the observed haplotype distributions within the α and β clades. Analyses of molecular variance and pairwise population FST tests based on both mitochondrial and microsatellite DNA suggest that northern-northeastern India, central India, Nilgiris (in southern India) and Anamalai-Periyar (in southern India) are four demographically autonomous population units and should be managed separately. In addition, evidence for female philopatry, male-mediated gene flow and two possible historical biogeographical barriers is described.