There are currently 49 elephants in 11 zoos across the UK.
Elephants frequently experience considerable physical suffering and psychological distress as a result of being kept in captivity. Yet, the current protection we afford to these intelligent and sensitive animals is wholly insufficient.
A 2019 survey, carried out on behalf of Born Free, indicated that more than half (56%) of the UK public polled think elephants should not be kept in zoos.
When Born Free was founded in 1984, there were 20 zoos in the UK keeping around 50 elephants, of which 44 had been taken from the wild. Today, there are 49 elephants in 11 zoos across the UK.
Born Free is convinced that captivity cannot provide for the needs of elephants. Zoos and other captive facilities cannot replicate the highly complex social and physical environment elephants have evolved to live in. This means that what elephants want and need, compared to what they can be provided with in captivity, are very different.
Elephants in zoos are frequently kept in unnatural social groupings consisting of small numbers of unrelated elephants. In some cases, elephants are kept alone.
Elephants in zoos experience numerous health issues, such as obesity and problems with their feet, joints and skin.
Some UK zoos still manage their elephants under a free contact system that permit keepers and animals to share the same space. Some zoos still use the bullhook, a hook-ended tool used to tap, pull or even hit elephants to control their movements.
Zoos appear to be net consumers rather than producers of elephants. Many captive female elephants have low fertility rates and are unable to conceive. There is a high infant mortality rate. No elephants have been returned to the wild.
Elephants in UK zoos often display abnormal, stereotypic behaviours, such as repetitive swaying or head-bobbing.
Born Free is calling for the keeping of elephants in UK zoos to be phased out over time. To make this a reality, we are calling on the government to ban the import of elephants into the UK and to introduce a moratorium on breeding elephants, with the objective of phasing out the keeping of elephants in UK zoos.
Please help by sending a letter to the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.