The general elephant population has been declining for years now. They are running out of land to roam around freely and elephants are also being targeted by poachers for their ivories.
One may think that being under 2 constant threats would be enough for a species but no, there are also groups that specialize in capturing elephants and sell them to zoos for profit.
How do Zoos Harm Elephants?
Zoo culture thinks that it is okay to keep elephants in captivity, they think they care and are being compassionate about them. Most zoos may look like they mean well and come off like they are doing the best to care for their animals but we only know about the zoos as much as they let us know about them. We do not really have an idea of what actually happens behind the scenes.
I do not really want to throw all Zoos into the fire as some of them may actually be trying their hardest in order to take good care of their elephants. However, there is just not a way for a zoo to meet elephants’ physical, psychological and emotional needs.
The main reason why elephants struggle in captivity and die a lot sooner than their average life expectancy is because they are quite social and emotional animals. When they are forced to live alone under captivity, they slowly lose their joy and grip on life.
Bonding is quite hard for them as well. Elephants are not just going to get along just because of their elephants. Just like humans there also have characteristics. In the wild, if an elephant acts aggressively towards another elephant, the one who does not like it can run away and find others. But in captivity, if an elephant does not like the company of another elephant it simply does not have a place to run off.
Being stuck in an environment like that would drive anyone mad. The opposite also happens though, sometimes elephants in captivity get along quite well and form meaningful relationships. But sometimes zoos may decide to sell their extra elephants, especially males, to other zoos. When that happens, bonded elephants lose each other and their friendship, how would you feel if you were to lose your best friend or soulmate and be put in a place you had never seen before? Just awful…
We are talking about a species that moves around 15 miles every day. Apart from not being able to develop relationships to satisfy their social needs, they cannot move however they like neither. Instead of using their body, they become passive and eventually put on weight. Obesity is also a risk for elephants in captivity and the elephants of the Pittsburgh Zoo were on the headlines a couple of years ago.
Even though there are zoos that mean well, it is just impossible to captivate elephants. They are meant to live freely and roam around in the wild. It does not matter how well we take care of them, it will never be the same. By forcing them to live in captivity we harm them, maybe not physically but emotionally and psychologically. And that kind of harm grants them a shorter life in pain.