Human milk is commonly considered to be unique when compared with the milk of other species with regard to its high content of complex fucosylated and sialylated lactose-derived oligosaccharides. We describe the application of high-pH anion-exchange chromatography with pulsed amperometric detection and TLC to characterize and quantitate neutral and sialylated lactose-derived oligosaccharides in milk from three Asian elephants and human milk. The lactose contents of elephant and human milks were 25–30 g/l and about 66 g/l respectively, whereas total oligosaccharide concentration was about three times higher in elephant milk and comprised up to 40% (10% in human milk) of the carbohydrate content. The ratio neutral: acidic components was different in the milk of the two species; in elephant milk, the N-acetylneuraminic acid-containing oligosaccharides made up almost half of the total amount v. 30% in human milk. Most oligosaccharides in elephant milk were more fucosylated and/or sialylated compared with human milk components. By mild acid hydrolysis, fucose and N-acetylneuraminic acid were cleaved off from complex components, and this resulted in increased amounts of fucose, galactose, N-acetylneuraminic acid, lactose and lacto-N-neo-tetraose. Unique to elephant milk are the high levels of 3′-galactosyllactose (up to 4 g/l) and lacto-N-neo-tetraose which are present in human milk only in trace amounts. Elephant and human milks have high levels and unique patterns of oligosaccharides which may reflect the relative importance of these components in neonatal host defence, in endothelial leucocyte interactions or in brain development.