Frequently Asked Question

How much space do elephants in captivity need?

The answer to this question is, β€œit depends.” It depends upon how many elephants there are and what the age/sex composition of the group is. Our answer is often that elephants need enough space to be elephants. What does that mean? It means that an enclosure should be big enough to hold a couple of family groups (adults and juveniles numbering perhaps 20-30 individuals divided into several affiliated units) as well as several independent adult males. The consequences of having a breeding population raises other ethical and practical dilemmas that we will not go into here.

The space available should allow individuals the autonomy to choose among social partners: allowing association when the animals choose to be together and allowing a safe haven for individuals who want to, or need to, get away. The space should be large enough for elephants to go about their elephant business as naturally as possible – foraging (browsing and grazing), dusting, mud wallowing, swimming, resting under the shade of a tree, beating up bushes in play, and running about.

There are many other considerations, but just these criteria require space on the order of tens of square kilometres. (1 square kilometer equals 100 hectares equals