Elephants in Captivity

Elephants, together with apes and cetaceans, are really ill-adapted to captivity. 

As one of the most intelligent creatures on Earth, elephants have immensely complex needs that no captive facility can fully provide, and they suffer a lot confined to small spaces. Even crueler and more abusive is the treatment that elephants receive in circuses, working camps and bad run facilities.

According to regional studbooks and government estimates (AsERSM 2006) approximately 12,000–15,000 of the world’s elephants are living in captivity. 

Photo credit Jill Freedman




In our campaigns and activities we firmly oppose and fight any use of elephants in circuses, the capture and taming of wild elephants for working and tourist/safari camps and the presence of elephants in facilities with inadequate living conditions and accommodations.

We also engage zoos worldwide in order to identify those entities that are interested in making an effort and collaborating with us in terms of substantially improving their elephant’s accommodations and contributing to concrete projects in the field.

We share the scientific view that elephants require complex social and environmental settings to thrive and we think zoos must start aiming at large “elephant parks” measured in square kilometers rather than hectares.

Finally, we support the creation of sanctuaries for elephants coming from another form of captivity, sadly often from a life of abuse and confinement. The goal of sanctuaries must be, above all, the physical and psychological wellbeing of individual elephants, in the short and long-term.

EAL is collaborating with Elephant Haven Foundation to create the very first elephant sanctuary in Europe. Please contact us if you know a donor who is interested in starting up this unique project. Click here for more info.

More info on elephants in captivity in our dedicated section – click here