Wildlife experts are calling on zoos to become elephant-free, saying keeping them in captivity is ‘archaic, unethical and damaging’.
A new report from the animal rights charity Born Free, titled Elephants in Zoos: A Legacy of Shame, has revealed the often brutal reality for elephants who are kept in captivity and is urging the keeping of elephants to be phased-out.
There are currently 580 elephants in European zoos, including 49 in the UK.
The report, which has backing from numerous high-profile animal welfare exports, revealed that 40 percent of infant elephants die in zoos before the age of five.
It goes on to say that the ‘majority’ of elephants kept in zoos in both Europe and North America start to develop and display abnormal behaviour, such as compulsive rocking and swaying, as a consequence of long-term psychological damage caused from being held in captivity.
Born Free founder Virginia McKenna said: “Elephants are living treasures, they no more belong in a zoo or a circus than in the sea or the sky itself.
“It is fundamentally wrong to confine these beautiful animals for our entertainment.”
Alongside elephants in zoos being phased-out, Born Free also urges the capture of wild elephants to be exported to zoos and the breeding of elephants to stop immediately.
The report claims the capturing of wild elephants to be sent off to live in zoos has a knock-on effect on the conservation of wild populations and their social stability.
It also highlights the difference between how an elephant would live in the world compared to in a zoo, noting that in the wild, elephants would roam across large areas alongside herds of between 20 and 70 other animals, whereas those living in zoos are kept in enclosures only slightly larger than a football pitch and with an average herd of just three, while some are kept completely on their own.
Angela Sheldrick, chief officer of Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, said: “No zoo in the world can provide elephants with the complex social structures and vast spaces they need to thrive.
“It is our moral responsibility to ensure no more are subjected to such purgatory and to find solutions for those who are.”
The reports authors say the timing of its release is critical, as the UK Government is currently reviewing its Standards of Modern Zoo Practice.
You can check out the full report here.