Wild elephant family

Three reasons why elephants don’t belong in captivity


Wild elephants will spend their days roaming long distances, grazing and socialising with other elephants, not confined in small enclosures or forced to perform.

Elephants are wild animals – not commodities to be used for our entertainment. They need our protection to stay in the wild where they belong.

Here are three reasons a life in captivity is inherently cruel for elephants:

  1. Elephants are the largest land mammal. Asian elephants require a great deal of space and resources. They consume up to 300kg of food per day and forage up to 10km through dense forest. Their home ranges vary between 30km² to 600km². 

  1. Natural resources in the complex forest environment enable elephants to self-regulate their nutrient intake, particularly to supplement dietary deficiencies and counter digestion problems. They are known to be very selective in what plants they eat. They depend on the availability of between 20 to 75 different plant species in the wild. The forest also provides plenty of stimulation for their highly developed olfactory receptors – which give rise to the sense of smell - which they engage daily for foraging, social communication and reproduction. 

  1. In the wild, asian elephants have complex social structures. They form multi-tiered societies with herds of up to 20 individuals. Herds display a range of social and cooperative behaviours, including sharing the care of offspring. After birth, elephant mothers look after their offspring for the first four to five years and continue to supervise them for several years after. Female offspring tend to remain in the mother herd all their life, while male offspring may leave the herd at between 10-15 years. 

Due to their physical size, complex social needs, high level of intelligence, large home ranges, diverse diet and large behavioural repertoire, the full welfare needs of elephants cannot be met in captivity.  

A life in captivity for elephants is inherently cruel and leads to suffering throughout their long lives. The practices necessary to control elephants when they are in close interaction with people highlight how inadequate a life in tourism entertainment is for these magnificent, endangered wild animals. 

Sadly, elephant tourism is big business. Our recent Elephants. Not Commodities report investigated 357 elephant camps across Asia, which are home to 3,800 captive elephants exploited for tourist entertainment.  

While many captive elephant venues argue that they keep and breed elephants for conservation purposes, elephants reared and kept in tourist venues are unlikely to ever be successfully released in the wild. The breeding and use of captive elephants in tourism is a lucrative business and is driven by tourist demand, commerce and profit.  

But it doesn’t have to be this way. You have the power to change the world for elephants! 

Elephant friendly venues don't use elephants for entertainment, or allow any direct human-elephant contact. The best place to see elephants is in the wild – where they belong.  

The breeding and use of captive elephants in tourism is a lucrative business and is driven by tourist demand, commerce and profit.

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