Bunka the elephant

29 June 2022


Born Free is supporting the campaign to help a lonely captive elephant named Bunka and YOU can help too by signing the petition.

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

(c) Mark Stratton

Bunka is a 15-year-old Asian elephant held at Yerevan Zoo in Armenia. He was born at Tbilisi Zoo in Georgia and taken away from his mother at the age of seven – swapped for Yerevan Zoo’s previous lone male elephant who was suffering from severe dental problems.

The inadequate elephant enclosure at Yerevan Zoo has changed little over the years. These poor conditions, made worse when combined with the freezing winter temperatures in Armenia, provide a bleak existence for elephants. In 2021, Bunka was seen shut in his small inside quarters as snow fell outside, pacing in endless circles. His available outside area is a baren pen with nothing for him to do or stimulate his sad life in any way. He has no companions, and there is real concern for his long-term physical and mental wellbeing if he were to remain at Yerevan Zoo.

As highlighted in Born Free’s recent 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, such as stereotypic pacing, head-bobbing, and swaying. Keeping elephants alone is completely unnatural. They are complex, social animals and there is increasing evidence that in the wild male elephants, rather than living their lives alone after reaching their early teens, regularly interact with groups of females or form bachelor groups with other males.

Born Free has joined with concerned individuals and international organisations calling for action to help Bunka and to further highlight his plight. As yet, pleas to Yerevan Zoo and the local Mayor to discuss Bunka’s situation, and to try and find a more humane solution for his welfare and lifetime care have been unsuccessful. Therefore, we are asking for YOUR help.

Please sign the Friends of Bunka petition and add your voice to the campaign seeking a better future for Bunka.