Bunka the elephant assessment report

2 March 2023


An assessment report released this week reveals the ongoing plight of Bunka the captive elephant.

A photo of a lonely Asian elephant in a barren zoo enclosure

Last year, we highlighted the case of Bunka, a young elephant who has been held alone in poor conditions at Yerevan Zoo in Armenia since arriving there from Tbilisi Zoo in Georgia in 2014. A new report released by Friends of Bunka on the 27th February has revealed the extent of Bunka’s physical and mental suffering, and the appalling conditions in which he is forced to live.

The detailed assessment lists numerous concerns including the inadequate and unnatural conditions in which Bunka is being kept, along with numerous physical abnormalities observed including signs of malnourishment and low body weight, weak body posture, inferior muscle condition, and foot health issues including cracked toenails, an abscess, and worn foot pads. Bunka was also observed pacing in circles in his small, concrete enclosure.

The report concludes that Bunka’s needs are not being met at Yerevan Zoo and that he should be moved to a specialist elephant sanctuary.

As highlighted in Born Free’s report Elephants in Zoos: A Legacy of Shame, captive elephants typically suffer shortened life expectancies, poor reproductive success, high calf mortality, numerous physical problems, and a range of behavioural abnormalities. Solitary elephants in zoos are particularly prone to psychological problems.

Dr Mark Jones, Born Free’s Head of Policy said: “Recognising that Yerevan Zoo cannot provide adequate conditions to meet Bunka’s physical and psychological needs, we would urge the Zoo management and the relevant authorities in Armenia to engage with independent elephant specialists in order to find the best solution for him, and to commit to ending the keeping of elephants at the facility.”


Image © Mark Stratton