The capture and taming of elephants began in the Indus Valley more than 4,000 years ago and people have continued to capture, train and work them since that time. Captive Asian elephants are often referred to as domesticated, but this is an erroneous use of the term. Captive elephants are tamed, not domesticated. True domestication requires many, many generations of selective breeding, isolated from wild populations, and results in genetic adaptation to living in the company and service of people.

Increasing number of performing elephants

Historically, elephants have never bred well in captivity and, consequently, a continuous supply of elephants captured from the wild was needed to maintain or increase the captive stocks. The off take of Asian elephants from the wild was historically so great that elephant populations on the subcontinent of India were locally depleted.

In the past captured elephants were sent to war and used for heavy logging and construction work, but the industrial revolution replaced them with machinery. Today, elephants are captured and/or kept in captivity primarily for our entertainment. Around the world there exist between 15,000-20,000 captive elephants and the circumstances for most of them are abysmal.

A life of abuse and brutality

Captive elephants are transported around in small trailers and boxcars for the travelling circus, confined in small enclosures in zoos, used as gimmicks in promotions and marketing, used to carry tourists on safari or to entertain them by playing football or polo, paraded in the streets for ceremony and begging purposes, and chained in the sun at Temples. Many of them have been "tamed" through the use of unbelievable brutality, and kept under life-long human control with continued abuse.

A growing number of people and organizations are working tirelessly to make a difference for the lives of captive elephants by providing rescue, sanctuary and reintroduction to the wild and by educating people.

ElephantVoices' views on different captive elephant issues are presented within this section and in our many statements and testimonies.

I was captured in the wild,
taken from my family;
Now I live alone,
in this small, dark pen.

You can read in my eyes,
and in the color of my skin, that
I am sad, lonely and frightened
of those small, bad men.

June 2009