Elephants are sentient and very intelligent. In fact, elephants are among the few species on the planet that show cross species empathy. Elephants will aid another animal in distress even if it is not to their advantage biologically.
Elephants Are Much Like Us
For this reason, we have collected some of the most important facts that we believe should be known to everyone:
- As a species, elephants are among the few in the world that have self recognition, social awareness and language.
- Elephants live in complex family structures led by a matriarch. Female elephants stay with their mothers for life. If their mother dies, another female member of the herd (a sister or an aunt) will step in and take over the mother’s role.
- Male elephants stay with their mother until they are teenagers. However research shows that they often will return to the herd.
- Elephants mourn their dead. They will often stand vigil for days over a herd member’s body. They will return to the location where a herd member has died years later.
- In the wild, elephants roam up to 50 miles per day and forage for food up to 18 hours per day. Walking helps elephants digest their food which aids in their overall health.
While elephants in the wild benefit from an unfettered expression of these natural behaviors, those that are kept in captivity experience a number of conditions that drastically diminish their quality of life. More specifically, circuses and unaccredited roadside zoo attractions/parks often do not provide the necessary environment for a healthy lifestyle for captive elephants. Below are some facts that are well documented through multiple media reports and undercover investigations:
- Performing elephants spend up to 96% of their lives on chains.
- Performing elephants are often housed in cramped, unsanitary conditions, left to stand in their own waste and do not receive adequate vet care.
- It is well documented that the circus industry standard used to train an elephant to perform tricks is by “breaking” the elephant. This starts when the elephant is a baby. This involves subjecting them to brutal training methods including the use of electric shock devices “hot shots” and physical beatings with sledgehammers, sticks and bullhooks (a device resembling a fireplace poker). Google “circus elephant abuse”.
- Wild elephants can live well into their 60’s or 70’s. However, most captive elephants only live into their late 30’s to early 50’s.
- Arthritis and foot rot are two major health problems common in captive elephants due to lack of adequate exercise and standing in their own waste. Please follow this link from the BornFree foundation for more information regarding the medical problems that elephants face.
- Elephants in captivity are not always housed with other elephants, but instead are often seen as the sole elephants in those environments. This goes against their natural social structure which is composed of multiple members (examples: Asha at the Natural Bridge Zoo in Virginia, USA and Nosey who was recently saved).