Zoo elephants live shorter lives than their wild counterparts, report warns

Friday, December 12, 2008

An elephant at a zoo in Tbilisi, Georgia
Image: rugbyxm.

A recently released report has found that elephants living in protected environments in their natural habitats live significantly longer lives than elephants kept in zoos.

The report focused on Elephants in European zoos, and it stated that "bringing elephants into zoos profoundly impairs their viability." Georgia J. Mason, who lead the study, also stated that zoos do not need to abandon the idea of keeping elephants in captivity, although he did recommend that imports of the animal should only occur in zoos which have a track record of successfully addressing issues in elephant's health, and have a productive breeding programme.

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Should elephants be kept in zoos?

“Currently zoos are consumers rather than producers of elephants,” added Mason. “We feel that’s not really appropriate.”

The Association of Zoos and Aquariums criticised the findings. The organisation's senior vice president for conservation and education, Paul Boyle, described the research as “terribly flawed.”

Boyle also stated that he did not remember any time when elephants were brought into the US for zoos. "I cannot speak for other countries," he added "but that [the statement that elephants are imported for zoos] is not true of the United States.”

The researchers for the report were from organisations including the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the University of Guelph.