A report by Dr Rob Atkinson & Dr Keith Lindsay

Endorsed by 25 leading specialists, this fully-referenced report explains why expansive, diverse habitats are critical to keeping captive elephants physically and psychologically healthy.

We strongly conclude that these uniquely sentient, intelligent and social beings cannot lead completely meaningful lives in captivity, given the enforced restrictions on their dynamic and complex behaviour, which requires both ample natural space and an abundance of other elephants.

Quality space means that elephants can forage in natural, diverse vegetation, walk for miles each day, and exert a high degree of control over their social interactions. They suffer in captivity psychologically and physically because of the limits of what can be provided within such restricted environments. Most captive elephants spend their lives in enclosures no larger than a hectare – they can walk across them in little over a minute.

This report considers the evidence from wild, semi-wild, sanctuary, and zoo conditions to draw its conclusions. The wild is the only place where elephants can breed and truly flourish, but, sadly, for many zoo elephants a return to the wild is likely impossible. For these animals, however, 100ha or more of diverse, natural habitat in a warm climate would offer individual elephants the opportunity to live fulfilling lives. Only a step change such as this stands a chance of delivering the meaningful improvement in welfare these elephants deserve.