Kate on Conservation

Elephants – Captivity vs. Paradise

elephants on the march

The thing on my mind right now is animal release and more specifically rehabilitation of elephants into the wild.

the elephants journey


This issue is capturing my attention now for two reasons, the first being the ultra cute Coldplay video to their song ‘Paradise’ (see link at the end of this post) which explores the idea of longing to return to ones home land, and the second; an article I read on Born Free Foundation’s website regarding new evidence stating the health risks that elephants face in captivity.

The article explains that researchers from University of Bristol confirmed that elephants do not live as long in zoo environments as they would in the wild, and often develop problems in their feet and legs when kept in captivity. Further to this however, is the mental and emotional damage that living in a zoo can cause one of Africa’s largest mammals. Elephants are complexly sociable mammals, preferring to live in herds, usually matriarchal in structure.

Elephants have such strong social bonds between herd members that it is not unusual for families to mourn a death within the group for many years, sometimes annually returning to the site of tragedy. Yellowmagpie states that: ‘there is ritual touching of the dead’s bones”, showing that these loving creatures endure complex grieving processes not unlike humans.

During my time at Shamwari I had several encounters with elephants, from the photo at the top of this blog post that shows a herd journeying to a waterhole together, to the photo below of a herd stomping through the reserve in their masses, never did I see an elephant alone or remaining in one location for more than a few hours at a time. Surely proving that captivity is not a close substitute for these wonderful animals?

elephant march


Even when jeeps of tourists or volunteers such as ourselves pulled up alongside a thirsty herd the reception we received was one of curiosity and affability. The kind of response seldom shown towards gawping visitors at zoos. Perhaps captivity deprives them of their social nature? Opinions in the comment  box below please.

(Text below taken from http://www.bornfree.org.uk)

Born Free is calling for a humane phasing out of the keeping of elephants in zoos and circuses, to be achieved by:

  • A permanent end to further imports into Europe
  • No further breeding of elephants in captivity
  • Major improvements to welfare of those elephants already in captivity
  • Consolidation of elephants already in captivity into reasonable social groups and an end to the keeping of elephants alone

Write to Will Travers – Born Free CEO at 3 Grove House, Foundry Lane, Horsham RH13 5PL

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