Library:A Review of the Welfare of Zoo Elephants in Europe (report)

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A Review of the Welfare of Zoo Elephants in Europe (report)

A Review of the Welfare of Zoo Elephants in Europe is a report on the welfare of zoo elephants in Europe, commissioned by the RSPCA and written by Ros Clubb & Georgia Mason from the University of Oxford. The report aims to identify welfare problems associated with keeping elephants in captivity, scientifically identify relationships between such problems and elements of elephant husbandry, and make sound, ethically based recommendations for improving the welfare of captive elephants.


The report concludes that there is considerable evidence that zoo elephants experience poor welfare. Unlike many species kept in zoos, their mortality rates are not lower than those of animals living in the wild, and for Asian elephants, mortality rates are significantly higher than those in timber camps. Infant mortality rates are also much higher in zoos than in timber camps. Illness is the main reason why zoo elephants tend not to die of old age, and giving birth before the age of 12 and being captive born are significant risk factors. Captive born elephants have a 60% lower life expectancy than those caught from the wild. The incidence of veterinary conditions possibly caused by excess body weight and/or stress is also noteworthy. High infant mortality in zoos largely arises from stillbirths, maternal rejection, and infanticide. Further reproductive problems consistent with poor welfare include poor conception rates, long inter-birth intervals, and a cessation of reproductive competence in adult females long before it would occur in the wild or in timber camps.

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