Elephants in zoos live anonymous lives.

Day after day, the zoo-going public stops for a brief look, unaware of the secret suffering elephants endure. Thanks to In Defense of Animals’ efforts, the housing and treatment of elephants in zoos are the subject of growing national debate, with literally thousands of news articles and television reports dedicated to this subject over the past few years. 

To date, 33 zoos have closed or plan to close their elephant exhibits, including major institutions like the Bronx Zoo and zoos in Toronto, Detroit, San Francisco, and Chicago. In addition, over a dozen zoo have placed over 20 elephants at one of two U.S. elephant sanctuaries.

IDA’s captive elephant campaign raises public awareness about the plight of elephants in zoos and circuses, and is a powerful force for dramatic change in the care and housing of captive elephants in the U.S.

IDA’s multi-pronged campaign includes these components:

  • Obtaining medical records for elephants in every public zoo in the United States. These records provide a shocking window into the poor health and terrible suffering of elephants which is a direct result of the deficient conditions in which they are held in zoos.
  • Compiling the annual Ten Worst Zoos for Elephants list, which each year garners broad coverage in media across the nation.
  • Acting as a watchdog for zoos failing elephants and as an advocate for the transfer of elephants, such as Billy at Los Angeles Zoo, or Lucky at San Antonio Zoo, to sanctuaries.
  • Operating an Elephant Task Force of concerned citizens who are the eyes, ears and voice of IDA in their communities, documenting conditions at local zoos and circuses, and educating the public about the plight of elephants there.

IDA advocates for an end to elephants in circuses, and for closure of barren, cramped and unnatural zoo exhibits. We look forward to the day when all captive elephants are held in conditions that allow them to thrive — large, spacious preserves that offer hundreds to thousands of acres of natural habitat over which elephants can roam, socialize and live the kind of life that Nature intended.