Last Updated on Tuesday, 05 November 2013 17:18
Since the origin of elephants, about 60 million years ago, the order Proboscidea has included at least 160 species in 39 genera, in an extraordinary array of forms. The African and Asian elephants existing today are the sole remnants of that spectacular radiation, and they, too, may be close to the end of their time on earth.
It was with decades of experience studying elephant communication and behavior and an equal number of years witnessing, firsthand, the suffering of elephants, that we envisioned something along the lines of a Bill of Rights for elephants. It seemed that, no matter where we turned, there were issues related to the treament of elephants. management practices, poaching for ivory, capture of elephants for captivity, and the holding of elephants captive led us to ask: How should we treat these extraordinarily complex, intelligent, social beings? What rights to exist or to be given fair treatment should they have in our anthropocentric world? The Elephant Charter, written in 2007, was the result.
As initiators of the Elephant Charter we wish to share with you its preamble, which resonates even more powerfully today than when it was written in 2007. The Elephant Charter has per September 2013 been signed by well over 50 elephant biologists, more than 130 elephant professionals and over 1,400 friends of elephants. Please join us by signing The Elephant Charter and helping to change the way people think about our planet and all of its inhabitants.
The preample to the Elephant Charter begins:
"For thousands of years, people have praised and punished, elevated and degraded, revered and feared elephants. Now, the earth’s largest living land mammal is under threat, and with it a host of ecosystems. The destruction of elephants and their habitats has annihilated entire populations and pushed others close to the brink of extinction. Furthermore, the regular exploitation and abuse of individual elephants is a source of preventable suffering.
The preservation of elephants is vital to the health of the natural world and to the heritage of future generations; mistreatment of them is unworthy of our species. We, the undersigned scientists and conservationists, affirm that elephants are unique, important and irreplaceable. We, therefore, hereby introduce an Elephant Charter to promote the protection of all elephants from human conduct and institutions that cause their needless suffering or loss of life.
We recognise the right of people to go about their daily activities and economies without threat to life or livelihood from elephants. Nevertheless, when human endeavours threaten the future survival of elephants, people must examine their collective behaviour in relation to the needs of other species. We have reached such a time...."
Last Updated on Sunday, 29 September 2013 08:11
Some time ago we received an e-mail from Nicole Pursley in Texas, where she writes: "Hi, my daughter and I watched the documentary "An Apology for Elephants", and learned about the bull hook used on these animals. We went to Scarborough fair in Waxahachie, Texas, today and saw these poor elephants giving rides. Thankfully because of the movie my daughter saw the bull hook and refused to ride because she did not want to support the abuse. I asked the man with the hook why it was needed and of course he denied the actual reasoning for it. He then processed to poke the elephant in its side saying "see, it doesn't hurt them". My six year old just started crying - it was just heartbreaking! With your cause being so successful, can you point me in the right direction to bring awareness to these elephants?"
The story touched me very much, and I immediately wrote back to Nicole thanking her for the kind words, giving her some advise in regard to who she could get in contact with locally, and asking her if we might publish her and her daughters story on ElephantVoices. Nicole and her daughter Ella had experienced the infamous Trunks & Humps - a circus company out of Texas - which represents another sad story about the treatment of elephants.
Ella and Parker working together for elephants
Nicole responded: "My daughter was so excited this morning when I read your email to her. We would absolutely love for you to post her story on ElephantVoices!! Ella (my daughter) wants to take a picture with her elephant collection, after school today. I will also send you a few other pictures of the elephants yesterday and let you pick which ones you believe can help them the most. Thanks so much again. Ella has been wanting to help for a while now and I just did not know where to begin. After what we saw yesterday I knew I just needed to start somewhere. I will send you the email later this afternoon!"
And when the photos came, Ella's mother wrote: "Ella picked her newest stuffed elephant Parker to join in her picture. She told me as soon as people hear what they are doing to these elephants, they will help her fight back to save them. She tells anyone that will listen about the ivory trade and how many elephants are killed each year because of it. We constantly look at your website and Facebook page to read updates about the elephants - good or bad. With you helping her get this story out it will encourage and inspire her to keep spreading the word!"
Every step toward better treatment of elephants is a victory
This story is about is a little girl deciding to do something when she sees something that she doesn't feel is right. The suffering of many elephants in captivity is enormous. Ella can help by telling others about the brutal disciplining and the tools used to keep these big, intelligent animals in line. She can help in many other ways also - some mentioned on the page What YOU can do here on ElephantVoices.
We see it as a victory every time a compassionate individual, young or old, writes to us feeling inspired to put efforts into trying to improve the situation for elephants. There are so many passionate voices out there - but many more are needed! And the voices of children are often the most powerful.
Awareness and public pressure are pushing those responsible for keeping elephants in captivity in the right direction. Some accept that they just cannot provide acceptable conditions and allow their elephants to move to a better home as long as that is an option.
Thank you Ella and Nicole for contacting us - continue to spread the word! I can see that Ella's friend Parker and his companions are having a good life - but there are so many elephants in captivity who don't! And certainly many without companions...
Last Updated on Thursday, 02 August 2012 13:44
Today, 2 August, marks five years since Aaron Leider and Robert Culp, the late world renown actor, filed a case against Los Angeles Zoo and its director, John Lewis. It has been a long battle, but the ruling from 23 July shows it was worth it. Even though the court didn't close down the LA Zoo elephant exhibit, the ruling is highly critical of both the staff and so-called experts from LA Zoo and AZA.
We are gratified that the landmark ruling for animals in captivity states that evidence presented by ElephantVoices' Joyce Poole was "the most credible testimony". The main point, though, is that a dedicated team, with attorney, David Casselman, at the helm, did a great job preparing and in court. Elephants need people to fight for a better tomorrow - the LA Zoo case demonstrates clearly the suffering caused by human ignorance, lack of competence and straight out cover up of the real issues concerning elephants in captivity.
From the perspective of elephants and their interests, there are many highlights in the ruling. While it is our opinion that the evidence presented offers a strong basis for closing down the exhibit, it also inspires us to further define scientifically sound arguments for why elephants don't belong in urban zoos. The headline, above all others, is the lack of space.
For the benefit of LA Zoo's elephants Billy, Tiny and Jewell, The Court has:
- Banned the use of bull hooks and electric shock;
- Ordered the City of Los Angeles and the Zoo Director to roto-till the exhibit regularly, consistent with the standards and recommendations of Dr. Oosterhuis and Jeff Andrews
- Ordered the City of Los Angeles and the Zoo Director to exercise the elephants at least two hours a day, unless weather or emergency conditions make it impracticable.
We urge you to read the ruling, which is educational in itself.
Two quotes from the ruling speak volumes to the elephant cause - and there are many others:
- "Contrary to what the zoo's representatives may have told the Los Angeles City Council in order to get the construction of the $42 million exhibit approved and funded, the elephants are not healthy, happy, and thriving".
- “Captivity is a terrible existence for any intelligent, self-aware species. To believe otherwise, as some high-ranking zoo employees appear to believe, is delusional. And the quality of life that Billy, Tina, and Jewel endure in their captivity is particularly poor.”
We believe this ruling will act as a serious wake-up call for the LA Zoo and the AZA, and can only hope that the real interests of elephants will in future be put higher on their agenda. We will in any case not rest in our efforts to push for a better life for Billy, Tina, Jewell and the many other zoo elephants who are suffering.
The ruling is long, but well worth reading. You can read or download it from this link, or download it directly here. (6.98 MB). You may also like to read the two articles linked below to get further insight and perspectives into what Judge John L. Segal concluded:
Last Updated on Friday, 11 May 2012 19:47
Through Junia Machado and other good elephant friends in Brazil, ElephantVoices is working hard for the best interest of elephants in this progressive country. Our main objectives are
To create awareness about elephant conservation and the welfare needs of captive elephants in Brazil, and to secure that a sanctuary for elephants is established as soon as possible.
To get such a sanctuary in Brazil off the ground is key to discussions about getting elephants suffering in circuses and bad zoos moved to a new home. Without having a good alternative in place for abused elephants, it is difficult to get the political process regarding elephant welfare moving forward. Junia and others are currently learning as much as possible about the captive elephants in Brazil - many kept under terrible conditions. ElephantVoices believe there are 25 elephants in Brazilian zoos, and 6 in circuses or chained on rural properties, but are still working to get these figures and details related to each elephant confirmed.
Consulation with The Elephant Sanctuary (TES), Performing Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) and individuals with sanctuary experience is obviously on the agenda to be able to bring plans for a sanctuary in Brazil forward, and all efforts are based on Sanctuary for Elephants - Overall Principles (148.66 kB), developed by ElephantVoices. During PAWS Summit for Elephants in California in March 2012 ElephantVoices also met with Elephant Haven, an initiative meant to lead to a much needed elephant sanctuary in Europe (France).
Junia Machado's interest in elephants was triggered when she was eight years old, and when she saw Teresita in São Paulo Zoo some years ago, she decided to do her best for elephants and contacted ElephantVoices. Since then she has built up a network of people volunteering time and energy for elephants. Together with co-volunteer Ana Zinger in Rio de Janeiro and Ticiana Carneiro in São Paulo she has started blogging on ElephantVoices Brasil and also launched ElephantVoices Brasil on Facebook. In addition to news related to captive elephants in Brasil, and hand-picked news from around the world, Junia and her Brazilian team post material and news from ElephantVoices.org, all translated into portuguese.
Junia and Ana have met up with Petter and Joyce in Kenya and the Maasai Mara twice, and in March 2012 they joined at PAWS Summit for Elephants hosted by Oakland Zoo. Junia and Ana are also contributing work and data to ElephantVoices' conservation initiative for the Mara elephants, Elephant Partners.
Our main collaborators in Brazil, in addition to Junia Machado and Ana Zinger, are Maria Cristina Mullins, Teca Franco, Martha Toledo, Tiago Esteves Carvalhaes, Andrea Schmidt, Mayara Barbi and Carol Toledo. There are also other volunteers supporting their efforts on specific issues, like Mario Duarte, Luciana Dallari, Ticiana Carneiro, Felicia Mendonça, Sabrina Cury, José Licciardi and Marcos Marcello. Two agronomists, Cesar Frizzo and Vanessa Rizzi, are currently checking land-related issues and possibilities in connection with a future sanctuary.
ElephantVoices Brasil is also networking with a substantial number of people working for elephants in other countries in South-America, and aims to contribute ideas and the sound science-based knowledge of ElephantVoices wherever it can be of help. Get in touch with
if you want to join ElephantVoices Brasil in their efforts!
Last Updated on Thursday, 15 December 2011 16:13
In the spirit of The Elephant Charter, and global recognition of the need for elephant sanctuary, ElephantVoices has developed a short document describing our perspective on "sanctuary" for elephants, and the overall principles we believe such sanctuary must be based upon. You can read and download Sanctuary for Elephants - Overall Principles, on this page.
Although elephants are highly adaptable to a broad range of conditions in the wild, they are ill-adapted to captivity. Research into wild elephant biology has revealed the true range of elephant capabilities and the normal physical and social conditions in which elephants thrive. These conditions are rarely, if ever, met in traditional forms of captivity. While animal welfare is increasingly configured in terms of "5 Freedoms", for captive elephants two of them - freedom to express normal behaviour and freedom from fear and distress - are particularly problematic.
Elephants have been held in captivity for various purposes for thousands of years. They are seen by many as a natural resource to be exploited to meet human needs. Elephants are put to work in forestry enterprises, religious institutions, tourism, circuses and zoos, and serve as subjects for captive propagation programs. The failure to meet the physical, social and cognitive interests of elephants in captivity, is manifest.
ElephantVoices is frequently engaged with people and organisations wanting to provide rescue and sanctuary for elephants, as it relates to our mission and to the principles of The Elephant Charter, of which we are authors and signatories. The Sanctuary for Elephants document is meant to be of help to anyone involved in such discussions, where ever they may take place.