"We tend to see in some situations that elephants don't cope well with captivity just because they have this inherent instinct to roam vast distances," said Dr. Deborah Wells, Senior Lecturer and Researcher
in Animal Welfare, School of Psychology, Queen’s University, Belfast, UK.
Some Viewpoints on Elephants and Space
The Elephant Sanctuary's Viewpoint:
Crucial to The Elephant
system of passive control management
is an elephant's access to a vast
and diverse space. Elephants are
a highly intelligent, social species,
motivated by food and relationships.
It is our observation that a diverse
vast space and compatible others
have the greatest positive influence
on an elephant's behavior and health.
Space helps to reduce tension and
relieve boredom. With room to roam,
elephants can maintain healthy
feet and a toned body. Subordinate
elephants do not feel trapped or
hunted by an intimidating elephant;
with room, the subordinate elephant
can flee. She has an opportunity
to develop the self-confidence
necessary to overcome her fear,
and over time she can develop the
skills to relate to other elephants
and become a viable, integral member
of the herd. Space provides the
opportunity to avoid confrontation,
thereby reducing stress. Reducing
the pressures that can cause an
elephant to become fearful and/or
agitated decreases the probability
of aggression toward other elephants
With space, elephants spend less
time in proximity to caregivers
and more time relating to one another.
They learn to get their social
and psychological needs met from
one another, and they become a healthy,
self-governing herd. The caregiver's role
is not to dominate or dictate the elephants'
lives but to provide a place where the
elephants feel safe. See Management Philosophy.
"While space may be important for elephants,
there are no scientific studies
that can assist us in determining
either the minimum or optimum amount of outdoor space required
for captive elephants. It is important to note, however,
that bigger does not always imply
Michael Hutchins, PhD
Director/William Conway Chair
AZA Department of Conservation
Coalition for Captive Elephant Well-Being Disputes the
"AZA has developed
no empirical evidence to support
its much cherished hypothesis that
space, whether "enriched" or
not, doesn't matter."
Kane, Attorney and Writer
Lisa Kane is part of an ad hoc inter-disciplinary group,
the Coalition for Captive Elephant
Well-Being, founded in 2004. Its
membership includes zoo industry
professionals, veterinarians, animal
behaviorists, academics, field
scientists, animal wellfare experts
and public policy and law professionals.
The group's purpose is to disseminate
science-based analysis and recommendations
for institutions holding elephants
Coalition White Papers:
Conditions for Elephants in
Captivity, by Lisa
JD, Debra Forthman, Ph.D., and David Hancocks This white paper presents and
analyzes scientific literature
relevant to elephant species' evolutionary history
and ecology, animal learning, stress and distress,
conditioning, and current management practices utilized
by industries holding elephants captive.
Practices by the Coalition for Captive Elehant Well-Being,"
edited by Lisa Kane, JD, Debra
Fothman, Ph.D., and David Hancocks
This white paper presents evidence-based
standards for the care and
management of elephants held
captive. It addresses topics
ranging from space requirements
and social and occupational
needs of elephants to nutritional, health and
training best practices.
Both documents are available on Elephant Care International under
the Managment section.