Ideal Places for Elephant Protection

Topics: Poaching

Exploratory Essay: Controversy on Where Elephants Belong

Almost everyone enjoys going to the nearby public zoo or the big city zoos to have the chance to get up close to animals, ranging from farm animals to arctic animals and jungle animals to marine wildlife. As a child, I got to visit the closest zoo to home, Irvine park, as well as the Shrine Circus which came to town every summer to get a look at some of the earth’s unique animals.

Elephants, the earth’s largest land mammal,  are one of the most popular and most liked animals to see up close in zoos. When I was young, I can remember seeing elephants at the circus and even getting to ride on top of one after the show was over. While elephants are remarkable animals, the big controversy is whether they are better off in the wild, in zoos, or in elephant sanctuaries.

Animal activists and zoo experts give facts used in my articles to show both sides of the debate.

While animal activists’ main argument is that elephants can’t have enough space to live happy, healthy lives, zoo experts argue that zoos are expanding their exhibits and are safer for elephants due to animal poaching and human-elephant conflicts.

Once again, poaching is a very serious issue for elephants in the wild. The article “The Ivory War”, written by Lisa Herrington, helped introduce me more to the poaching that is happening in Africa. Herrington shows logos throughout her article by including multiple statistics on poaching.

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Africa’s Garamba National Park along with other parks has turned into battle zones between elephants, park rangers, and poachers. While killing elephants has been illegal since 1989, tens of thousands are being slaughtered for their ivory, and even park rangers are being killed by poachers so they can get to the elephants. Since Asia finds ivory a symbol of wealth, the growing demand for it causes the selling price for ivory to go up. An elephant tusk can make ten times more money than what the average African makes in a day, which causes poor people in Africa to want to poach elephants (4). In 2011 about 39 tons of ivory were, which was a record high. Kairos is also noticeable in this article. In her conclusion, Herrington states that African elephants use to numillionslions, but today it is estimated that only 500,000 remain in the wild. Scientists believe elephants may become extinct in 15 years if more isn’t being done to protect them (5). Written just recently in November 2012, Herrington shows her reader’s that this tremendous loss of elephants could lead them to extinction if we don’t do something more to stop poaching. While Herrington’s article is only two pages long, she provides her readers with many statistics and enough information to show how poaching is becoming a huge problem for the elephant population.

While the effects of poaching can cause readers to believe that elephants would be better off in zoos, zoos may also have their downsides too. In her article “Trauma Among the Animals”, Ann Weaver includes elephants in her article and notes how being in captivity can damage them physically and emotionally. In her introduction, Weaver explains, “Not only does the loss of a mother during infancy have a traumatic effect on infant development, but it also has a traumatic effect on older offspring.” When elephants or any other large-brained mammals such as apes and dolphins are in captivity, this can cause trauma as well as stress on these animals. Her discussion of the distress that is put on elephants in confinement also adds pathos to her article which can cause the readers to be more willing to agree with her argument. Weaver also explains that “Mothering is so essential to her infant’s social development that, without her, there is a devastating breadth and persistence of behavioral and physiological distortions in development” (2). Elephants that are separated from family or friends have been known to become very sad, elephants have even been known to die from sadness. Weaver gives an example of two circus Elephants, Shirley and Jenny, who were separated, and decades later when they were reunited, they show obvious signs of joy. Weaver, also explains how she noticed distress during her research of elephants in captivity, she explains that elephants will often show stereotypic behavior such as head swaying, body swaying, and repetitive trunk movements. These behaviors will often begin in elephants who aren’t receiving appropriate stimuli (5). Weaver’s purpose for her article is to argue how there are all types of animals that are distressed in confinement, and how social relationships for animals in confinement are unhealthy due to broken bonds and not enough mother-infant nurture. I found this article helpful because it shows how elephants may not be fit for zoos and circuses because separation, which often happens, can have a huge effect on them emotionally, socially, and even physically, Weavers iscanreate a reliable article by using multiple sources that include her wors well as works from other professionals. 

Another article, “Who Belongs in the Zoo” written by Michael Lemonick, Jeanne McDowell, and David Bjerklie, states more about why elephants shouldn’t belong in zoos. The purpose of their article is to show that while some animals are appropriate other animals simply can’t be satisfied in a zoo environment. The authors also use pathos by Introducing Billy the elephant in the Los Angeles Zoo and how he lives in bad conditions, animal activists believe that his confinement under an acre to roam is not enough for the thirty miles of exercise he needs a day. Living in this kind of confinement can cause elephant arthritis, foot problems, and sometimes premature death. In Billy’s case, animal experts can see his distress through his head bobbing, possibly due to an inadequate environment. Zoo consultant David Hancocks explains that some animals just aren’t meant to be in zoos. Many major zoos across the country such as the San Francisco, Chicago, Detroit, Philadelphia, and the Bronx Zoo in New York City stop exhibiting elephants. Besides elephants, people are wondering if even giraffes, bears, and some other animals belong in zoos at all. Hancocks believes that primates can be kept in zoos as long as you keep them in an intellectual environment that keeps them busy. Tigers and lions can also be satisfied in confinement because most of their time is spent napping after meals.

But unlike primates and big cats, many animal experts believe that bears shouldn’t be kept in zoos due to their natural curiosity that cannot be satisfied by an artificial environment. Giraffes, gazelles, and other animals that run freely across the Savannah also shouldn’t be kept in captivity. Animal experts also exclaim that unnatural environments cause unnatural behavior for many animals. Elephants can be housed humanely, but Hancocks explains that “The only place I have seen truly happy elephants in captivity, is in the two elephant sanctuaries in the U.S.” This article is helpful for my controversy because it gives information on how some animals may be fit for zoos, whereas other animals who need a lot of space may not be appropriate for zoos. This article also brings up elephant sanctuaries, which in the end may be the best solution for elephants to live in happiness. The authors make an article that is dependable by using quotes from actual zoo experts but also create a persuasive article with the use of pathos by showing their readers the unhealthy conditions that certain animals have to deal with in zoos. Timing can also affect what the readers think because for the past decade it has been a controversy on whether or not elephants should be in zoos.

My final article, also written by Jeffrey Cohn, titled “Do Elephants Belong in Zoos?”

discusses both sides of the controversy. Like many of my articles used throughout my paper, the exigence of Cohn’s article is because of the main controversy on whether elephants should be in zoos or not. I decided to discuss this article last in my research paper because it can give my readers a final outlook on the positive and negative sides to both sides of my issue. The timing of Cohn’s article plays a big role in persuading the audience because it was written during a time when zoos are trying to decide whether it would be better to get rid of elephants or instead expand the elephant exhibits. The main issue for zoos is whether or not they can provide enough space for elephants. While some zoos are getting rid of their elephant exhibits, others are expanding their enclosures to provide for the elephant’s needs (714). Cohn states that “The debate over elephants in zoos is complicated by the precipitous fall in the number of wild elephants over the last several decades because of poaching for ivory, habitat loss, and human-elephant conflicts.”

Animal welfare advocates make a few arguments for their side. They say that the current and planned housing for elephants is still too small. These small confinements cannot house enough elephants to allow the formation of kinship groups and they discourage natural behaviors. Animal welfare advocates also think the money spent on building larger confinements could be better used for conservation in the wild. Other problems that occur include the separation of mothers and their young, male elephants’ require money for costly and separate enclosures, foot infections that occur in indoor facilities, and elephants’ need to have enough space to roam and exercise. John Cohn Interviews Nikia Fico, the director of Save Tuscan Elephants, who says that “Elephants need to be in constant motion. They walk up to 50 miles a day. When they don’t move, that’s when they have physical problems.” According to Fico, life span is also shorter for elephants in captivity than for elephants in the wild (715). While animal welfare advocates think zoos can create sanctuaries away from the city for elephants, zoo director, John Lewis, doesn’t agree with this idea because it would be too expensive and hard for people to access these sanctuaries.

On the other side of the argument, zoo experts, such as Robert Weise, argue that elephants do not need to walk up to fifty miles a day, just enough to find food, water, and socialization. Another zoo expert in Cohn’s article is Michael Hutchins, who also states that “They need to walk throughout the day for exercise and muscle tone, but not nearly 50 miles.”

Zoo supporters also claim that although both captive and wild elephants can live into their 70s (one zoo elephant lived to age 86), drought, disease, poaching, and slaughter in retaliation for raiding crops keep the life expectancy of wild elephants to 40. Zoo elephants average 44 years.” Zoo experts also say that they are walking their elephants as well as encouraging natural behavior by hiding treats to encourage them to search for food. Besides these transformations that zoos are making to improve the quality of life for elephants, many zoos are also replacing hard concrete floors with rubberized floors. Around forty zoos have already expanded their enclosures or are planning for expansion. Zoos argue that “They aim toItoto create sufficient space to double the number of elephants individual zoos display, which should, in turn, further encourage natural behaviors, including breeding, and show visitors a true elephant group, complete with adult males” (716). This partially helps out my controversy in showing each side of the argument, therefor my readers can decide for themselves which side they agree with. Cohn is also able to make a credible article by establishing his ethos using multiple interviews with zoo experts and animal welfare advocates to create a nonbiased article that argues each side.

In a conclusion, I found this controversy interesting because of my interest in animals as well as their safety and well-being of them. I learned a lot about elephants through my research. I never really knew a lot about poaching and how big of an issue it has been for the elephant population along with other animal populations. When I started this research I d a strong bebeliefhat elephants shouldn’t belong in zoos, but when I read more about poaching and what zoos are doing today to improve the lives of elephants, I am starting to believe maybe zoos are doing the right thing for elephants. But I toIIwerIethink the happiest and best life for an elephant would be in an elephant sanctuary where they can express natural behaviors, have a lot more space, socialize with elephants, and be in a climate that is suitable for them.

Works Cited

  1. Cohn, Jeffrey. “Do Elephants Belong in Zoos?.” BioScience, 56.9 (2006): 714-717.
  2. Cohn, Jeffrey. “Elephants: Remarkable and Endangered.” BioScience, 40.1 (1990): 1014.
  3. Herrington, Lisa. “The Ivory War.” Scholastic News — Edition 5/6, 81.8 (2012): 1-5.
  4. Lemonick, Michael, Jeanne McDowell, and David Bjerklie. “Who Belongs in the Zoo?.” Time, 167.25 (2006): 50-52.
  5. Weaver, Ann. “Trauma Among the Animals.” Journal of Trauma Counseling International, 3.1 (2010): 1-10.




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Ideal Places for Elephant Protection. (2022, Jun 14). Retrieved from

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