How Zoos Are Killing Elephants
In the wild, African elephants (Loxodonta Africana and Loxodonta cyclotis) live for an average of 56 years. African elephants who live in captivity in zoos live an average of only 17 years. In the wild, Asian elephants (Elephas maximus) live an average of 47 years. Asian elephants who live in captivity in zoos live an average of only 19 years. Why is there such a large discrepancy between the two? Can living in a zoo significantly shorten the life span of both African and Asian elephants? Unfortunately, the answer is yes. A life spent in a zoo is neither a good life nor a long life for an elephant.
Traditionally zoos have provided the connection between people and wild animals. For most people, it is their only opportunity to observe how animals live and to be entertained by their behavior. Over the last decade, however, great debates have taken place concerning the ethics of keeping wild animals confined in a cage or enclosure for most of the animal’s life. These debates have led many zoos to evaluate how they confine their animals and to create new ways to care and keep the animals in mentally and physically healthy environments, similar to what they would experience in the wild. For an elephant, however, the challenge is far greater than just increasing the size of the enclosure and adding some plants. An elephant’s size, social life, intelligence, and preference for tropical climates make it very difficult for zoos to create a healthy environment in which the elephants should live. That said, elephants in zoos have access to three things animals in the wild do not: around-the-clock veterinary care, a saf...
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...of Detroit and San Francisco have already closed their elephant exhibits and have sent the elephants to a sanctuary, but some zoos have decided to wait until the elephants die before closing their exhibits.
The best possible solution is to follow the lead of India, who last year banned elephants in all of its zoos, citing lack of space, poor breeding, and the absence of any positive effect on elephant conservation. Elephants, like humans, value their lives, and we have a moral responsibility to allow them to roam, to socialize, and to play. Their lives matter to them, and they should matter to us. We are morally obligated to protect other moral beings, and we have the power to do so. We must not allow them to live their lives in captivity but in their natural habitats. What is right – to treat elephants humanely or to make them suffer for our amusement?
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