Historically, the capture of wild elephants for wars and ceremonies and other human endeavours caused precipitous declines in populations of Asian elephants. Today, the capture of wild elephants continues, albeit on a much smaller scale, for the commercial sale of elephants to elephant-back safaris, zoos and circuses, causing the breakdown of complex relationships, lasting trauma and aggressive behavior. A particular Google search returns with close to 900,000 (May 2021) articles related to this appalling business practice - many of them based on interviews with ElephantVoices' Joyce Poole.

Horrible abuse

The process of capture and training was, and still is, gruesome. Infants, calves and even adults were rounded up, separated from family and associates, hobbled and subdued through a process of physical and emotional abuse and reward. Similar capture, using helicopters, vehicles, immobilization drugs, ropes and winches, continues today.

Photographs, video and eyewitness reports of the training of recently captured elephant calves show horrible abuse - calves are often held alone chained or in small cages, access to food and water may be withheld, and they are coerced with winches, or by pokes and jabs from a bull-hooks and other device. Read more on ATE 2006. Statement on elephant capture. (173 kB)

Based on everything we know about the intelligence and sociality of elephants, the abduction of elephants from their families in the wild for the purpose of human entertainment is the source of much elephant abuse and suffering and is unacceptable.

What YOU can do

South Africa, once the source of many wild-caught elephants (including the majority of the African elephants in US and European zoos) has since outlawed such capture. Yet other countries, including Burma, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Tanzania are still engaged in this gruesome practice.

You can help to stamp out the capture and export of wild elephants by ensuring that your local zoo does not obtain any elephants that have been imported from Africa or Asia, and by not spending your holiday cash on an elephant-back safari.

And please don't support or visit circuses that use elephants.

This graphic video shows the extremely violent and abusive method used in Asia to "break" elephants before they are sold on for use in work and entertainment. Many of them end up giving rides to tourists in Thailand and elsewhere, or are sent to zoos, circuses and temples for a life in misery.

Elements of these abusive ancient traditions form the basis for the training and control of most elephants in captivity.
Footage by Tim Gorski.

Learn more about phajaan, or crushing, via Wikipedia, or by watching other documentation of this highly abusive and unacceptable tradition posted on YouTube.

ElephantVoices standpoint is that the capture and taming of wild elephants for captivity and commercial exploitation is abusive and should be forbidden.