Frequently Asked Question

Does knowledge gained from medical treatment of and research on elephants in zoos benefit elephants in the wild?

Since elephants in the wild suffer from different ailments than zoo elephants, if at all, many of the techniques and procedures developed by zoo veterinarians are specific to life in captivity. In addition, even if the techniques could benefit wild elephants, most range states do not have the resources for this level of veterinary care. Many countries, like Kenya, have policies of primarily allowing “nature to take its course” – except in situations where people are the cause of injuries.

At the same time, it is certainly true that some aspects of elephant biology are difficult to study in the wild and that a captive environment provides unique opportunities for certain types of research. Some of the findings made in zoos have led to a better understanding of elephants and, as such, can benefit wild members of the species.

We must weigh the benefits of such research against the ethics of keeping sentient beings in unacceptable living conditions.