Elephants need all the help they can get. An estimated 100 African elephants are killed each day by poachers seeking ivory, meat, and other body parts. If we want elephants to still be on this Earth for our grandchildren to see, we need to be doing everything we can to help this species survive in the wild. Knowing this, we just can’t wrap our heads around why the U.S. has granted a permit to import 18 elephants from Swaziland, to be put behind bars in three of the worst zoos in the country.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is giving the green light to the Dallas ZooSedgwick County Zoo, and Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo to obtain three adult females, three young males, and 12 young females from Big Game Parks, a game reserve. Zoos are notoriously terrible places for elephants to live, but these three destinations have a reputation for being some of the worst places for elephants.


According to In Defense of Animals, Big Game Parks last exported elephants to U.S. zoos in 2003, claiming they would have to otherwise kill elephants because the population had grown too large. Too large meaning 40 elephants! At that time, U.S. zoos paid $100,000 to Big Game Parks for 11 elephants. This time, in exchange for the 18 elephants, the zoos are offering Big Game Parks $450,000. In return, the zoos expect to make millions off of the exhibit’s ticket sales. The zoos claim to be rescuing the elephants as Big Game Parks has said it would otherwise cull them since they supposedly pose a threat to the rhino population on the reserve, but this is a dubious statement as the elephants are kept confined to small areas in two parks, consisting mainly of two elephant-proof enclosures. In addition, viable alternatives have been suggested, such as relocating the elephants to a protected park or sanctuary outside Swaziland, that would keep the elephants in Africa, where they would have the greatest conservation value. 

While zoos claim to work in the name of conservation, the fact of the matter is that elephants in zoos will never be able to be returned to the wild. Therefore, keeping elephants in captivity does nothing to help their species populate. In addition, elephants suffer immensely in captivity and die prematurely. In the wild, can live on average to age 75, but the typical life expectancy among captive animals is only 20-30 years.

What Can You Do?

The best way to make a difference for elephants is to boycott zoos, circuses, and other establishments that hold them captive. Share this post to help raise awareness for these elephants and encourage others to do the same.

Featured image source: Amanda Richards/Flickr