Below you will find our answers to some of the many questions that are raised about the well being of elephants in captivity and in the wild.
The foundation for our expertise is decades of research and observations on the behavior of elephants under a broad range of situations in the wild - together with increasing experience with elephants in captivity. Some of our answers are based on empirical evidence, while others are personal reflections and opinions, emerging from our knowledge and ethical standpoint combined. Against the background of a rapidly changing scientific milieu, one’s perspective on animals and their welfare ultimately comes down to one’s own particular moral stand, one’s values, experiences and beliefs.
We have tried to be short on a very difficult and sensitive subject. In doing so we will have undoubtedly left out important justifications for our conclusions – but you can find numerous scientific papers and online sources, if you want to know more. This Elephant Interests section on ElephantVoices is among these. The book "The Elephant In the Room: The Science and Well-being of Elephants in Captivity" and our chapter Poole, J & Granli, P. 2008. Mind and Movement: Meeting the Interests of Elephants. (2.19 MB) is another source.
We cannot know for certain what an elephant, captive or wild, is thinking about her or his situation – just as we cannot know, for certain, what goes on in the minds of other people. We rely on people to tell us and we read their facial expressions and body postures. Through experience and observing patterns of behavior, we become very good at reading human body language. Similarly, through years of watching elephants, we have become extremely good at reading the body language and predicting the behavior of elephants. And, we do believe that the FAQ below will give you a pretty good insight in what captive elephants may be experiencing.
You are welcome to send us your own question(s), and we will try to include good questions of general interest in future updates of the captive elephant FAQ! You can search on any word within the questions and answers below, and thereby find questions related to zoo's, circuses, etc.
Page 1 of 3