elephant care

Care of elephants in captivity may be very differently performed and can not be generalized. Some countries may have an advanced scientific approach, but lack "feeling" for the elephants in their collection, others may be very personally concearned with their animals, but with limited finacing and funding.


Zoos today have developed a lot in the last 30 years, providing their elephants with more space, keeping breeding groups, and trying to have a modern approach to their management, inculding efforts to avoid chaining their elephants, and dominating their elephants too much during the day. results are less stressed elephants, but also more passive and sometimes rather apatic und physically and psychologically under stimulated. Accidents occur now and then why thers a tendency to transfer the elephant management into protected contact or off-hand.

An elephant keeper in a Zoo has the same role as every Zoo keeper: to identify and satisfy the needs of the animals. The keeper may have good or poor recources to to this, in general elephant keeper are very dedicated, almost fanatic in their interest, so if the care and management of the elephants is poor, theres more chances that the shortcoming is due to the Zoo direction and management, who lack financies or, because of less knowledge doesnt priority the well being of the elephants and time needed to spend with them.

The post-feudalistic approach from some undeveloped Zoo directors may also result in situations wehere the elephant keepers have to little time for the animals, because they have some 3-4 other species, which takes time with the daily routines.

This is an often neglected fact today, when accidents with elephants occur, and laymen critizice the traditional on-hand training method. A safe and harmonic relationship with elephants can only be based on huge amaounts of time, and if the elephant keepers is rushing around between hippos, rhinos and antilope cages the whole day, he wont be able to maintain a stressfree and calm relation with the elephants. Simple as that. But when you study even the most modern elephant houses today, they dont even have the technic farmer would start to use in 60s, because some directors are convinced thet elephant keepers should occupy their day walking hence and forth with feces transported like people did in the middle ages.


Circuses, on the other hand, are still run very traditional, and often keep their elephants chained many hours. The elephants are intensively worked on-hand, but are during most of the day more restricted in their movements, some may even be chained permanenty when not performing in the ring or doing reharseals. Some of them show more stress, but are often in better physical condition, and when not chained, in a good psychological condition.

In general, elephants at circus have a more restricted life, and the competence level of the elephant management is lower than in most Zoos. Economy resources may be restricted, but in general theres more people around elephants at circus, and its very seldom that someone is working the elephants alone. Accidents with staff occur, but in a low rate compared to the daily intensive manipulations by humans.


Treatment of elephants and other circus animals in USA is regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, under the 1966 Animal Welfare Act. Circuses are subject to unannounced USDA inspections that make sure animals have proper nutrition, sanitation, protection from the weather and veterinary care. Violations can result in fines of up to $2,500 per day and, in extreme cases, shutting down a circus.

Recommended literature about elephant care and management