Elephants in Zoos

Elephants home

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 rights 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 zoos have placed over 20 elephants at one of two US elephant sanctuaries.

In Defense of Animals’ 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 US.


In Defense of Animals’ Elephant Protection campaign is multi-pronged:

  • We compile the annual Ten Worst Zoos for Elephants list, which each year garners broad coverage in media across the nation.
  • We act as a watchdog for zoos failing elephants and as an advocate for the transfer of elephants to sanctuaries, such as Billy at Los Angeles Zoo, or Lucky at San Antonio Zoo.
  • We operate the Elephant Task Force, bringing together concerned citizens who are the eyes, ears and voice of In Defense of Animals in their communities, documenting conditions at local zoos and circuses, and educating the public about the plight of nearby elephants held in captivity. 


In Defense of Animals calls for an end to elephants in circuses, for the closure of zoo elephant exhibits, and for the transfer of victims to accredited sanctuaries. We look forward to the day when all captive elephants can enjoy 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.

You can support this campaign with our shop

Animals Suffer in Circuses Leaflet - Set of 300
Ban All Trade In Ivory-Save Elephants T-shirt Women's
Ban All Trade In Ivory-Save Elephants T-shirt Unisex
Animals Suffer in Circuses (New!)
Help Elephants Sticker
Elephants Suffer in Circuses (poster -Spanish)