Support Freedom for Zoo Elephants this World Elephant Day

We may never know all their secrets, but we have learned quite a bit about what elephants need to be happy and healthy and that when it comes to meeting their needs, zoos aren’t cutting it.

That’s why in honor of World Elephant Day on August 12 In Defense of Animals’ (IDA) elephant scientist, Toni Frohoff, Ph.D., is calling on zoos to do the right thing for this beloved species by closing their exhibits and sending their elephants to sanctuaries where their needs can be met.

“Zoos are doing more harm than good for elephants and we must release them to sanctuaries as a matter of urgency,” said Frohoff.

Over the years IDA has brought a lot of much-needed attention to the issue of elephants in zoos and the harm their captivity is causing, particularly through its annual release of the top Ten Worst Zoos for Elephants.

Some of the problems that have been exposed include blatant abuse, the use of bullhooks, reckless breeding, chronic health issues caused by captivity, keeping them in solitary confinement, keeping incompatible elephants together, many violations of the low standards that are set to ensure their welfare and premature deaths.

While the captivity industry continues to claim that zoos support education and conservation efforts, and supporters maintain that having close contact with elephants helps people care about them, they’ve been in captivity for decades and populations of African and Asian elephants have declined so rapidly that extinction is becoming an increasingly likely scenario.

Captivity may help if elephants were ever going to be returned to the wild, but that isn’t part of the Species Survival Plan for elephants in U.S. zoos, or the goal elsewhere.

Instead, these enormous, far-ranging, highly intelligent and social beings will spend their entire lives in captivity, where they are stripped of their autonomy and their ability to choose their friends and mates. Where they’re denied lifelong bonds with family members and are subjected to the monotony of small barren landscapes and the psychological stress and chronic health issues caused by their confinement.

Not only is their continued confinement in zoos causing individuals to suffer, it’s shifting the focus away from where it needs to be to protect elephants in the wild, where they continue to suffer from poaching, trophy hunting, habitat loss and being taken from the wild for captivity. As more continue to die in captivity, zoos will continue to turn to the wild for more, and as IDA put it, “further decimating and destroying the elephant societies they claim to be conserving and protecting.”

Just this week a new study brought more light on the issue of taking elephants from the wild after concluding that capturing and taming them significantly shortens their lifespans, regardless of whether they were taken alone, or with a family group.

“Elephants in zoos are dying more quickly than they can successfully reproduce. Zoos are spending millions of dollars to imprison elephants  while sending relatively minuscule amounts of money to real elephant conservation projects in the wild. On World Elephant Day 2018, we invite zoos that espouse elephant conservation to close their elephant exhibits and put their money where elephants need it most: in the wild,” said Frohoff.

According to IDA, the Zoological Society of Milwaukee, Cincinnati Zoo, Zoo Atlanta, and the Henry Doorly Zoo are spending a combined $290 million on captive elephant exhibits.

“This year we are seeing a huge influx of funds going to more exhibits for elephants who will never be (re-)introduced to the wild and who would receive far better care at an accredited elephant sanctuary,” said Frohoff.

IDA added, “Elephants are a vital repository of ancient knowledge of the environment, and have created their own unique culture within that; one that is far too rich and expansive to be preserved by fragmented individuals in fake zoo exhibits and can only be preserved within their ancestral lands.”

The easiest way to help this World Elephant Day is to avoid zoos and other venues that keep captive elephants, and instead support sanctuaries and organizations working to end captivity.

Photo credit: Andrew Rush/In Defense of Animals


HEIKKI R4 months ago

thank you

Winn A
Winn Adams5 months ago

Let them be freeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

Michael Friedmann
Michael Friedmann5 months ago

Thank You for Sharing This !!!

Leanne K
Leanne K5 months ago

The picture says it all. So wrong.

Marija M
Marija M5 months ago

Free them pls

Lesa D
Past Member 5 months ago

zoos are nothing more than prisons for animals & no one should support that...

Lesa D
Past Member 5 months ago

#140583 petition signed...

Lesa D
Past Member 5 months ago

thank you Alicia...

Dr. Jan Hill
Dr. Jan H5 months ago

No zoos

hELEN h5 months ago