Life for elephants in the zoo or circus is never as glamorous as it seems from an outside viewer’s perspective. We might see these animals in captive environments and think about how lucky the animals are to not have to worry about the “dangers” of life in the wild, being set for life with good food and the supposed best care possible. However, the reality of how these animals got to be in captive environments, how they are trained to exhibit the behaviors we see, and the actual impact on the animals themselves is never truly divulged.

Unfortunately, most elephants who are on display in captive settings have either been captured from the wild at a young age or bred in captivity, never knowing what life in the wild is like. In either scenario, elephants are typically separated from their mothers. The bond between elephant calves and their mothers is thought to be one of the strongest in the animal kingdom and the trauma of being pulled apart deeply affects young ones.


Specialists have noted that baby elephants who are separated from their mothers develop a sort of gaunt, pinched look in their faces, a sort of physiological manifestation of their suffering. Beyond this, some elephants are also subject to physical pain and abuse.

This sad photo from the National Council of the SPCA gives some insight into the sort of life that some captive elephant calves endure for the sake of our entertainment.




The Kota Foundation explains that the photo features “a wild elephant being trained to bring to a U.S. zoo.” They continue, “The burn marks on her back are from an electric rod that is standard use for training. The young elephant (aged 3-4 yrs. old) next to her has its front leg and back leg chained together. Another submission technique. ”


Elephants are extremely self-aware and emotional animals. Knowing this, we can only begin to fathom the fear and pain this little one must have experienced at the hands of their captor. We have to ask ourselves if this suffering is really worth it for our entertainment. If people really knew that baby elephants had to endure the treatment this little one underwent, would they really want to support zoos or any other captive animal attraction? The answer is most likely no.

But when we are left in the dark about these realities it only enables the cruelty to continue. You can help put and end to this suffering by sharing this article and helping to raise awareness for elephants and all other captive animals. In addition, we can all help lower the demand for captivity by refusing to attend any facility that profits from the display of wildlife.

No animal should have to suffer for the sake of our entertainment.

Image source: National Council of the SPCA