According to a recent study, between 1900 and 2015 alone, 1,774 African elephants were exported from the wild – 583 of them for circuses and other traveling exhibitions and 331 for zoos.
We find the export of live elephants taken from the wild to be put in zoos or other forms of captivity inacceptable!
Unfortunately, CITES rules - which regulate the appropriate way of capture and places of destination - are often bent or even completely ignored.
Current CITES regulations (Resolution Conf. 11.20, Rev.CoP17) regarding trade permits for live African elephants taken from the wild currently read as follows:
Appendix II - elephants
Botswana and Zimbabwe: elephants from these countries may be traded, given that the places of destination are suitable and acceptable
Namibia and South Africa: (i.e. elephants of all other African countries) trade permits (export permits) will only be issued for non-commercial purposes, i.e. places of destination which are suitable and where the elephants will be well looked after
During the last CITES global wildlife summit held in Johannesburg (CoP17), one additional regulation was agreed upon: any live trade of elephants must be beneficial to local elephant protection initiatives.
Elephant calves stolen from their families which are then transported all alone to amusement parks in China – as it was also the case in 2015 – are certainly not within the rules and regulations CITES had it mind when defining ‘acceptable’ cases. Numerous elephants which are being exported will either die prematurely or live a sad, short life in captivity – often under terrible circumstances, and with major constraints (please see list below). The remaining family members are traumatized, and some of them turn into so-called problem elephants and end up being shot.
Furthermore, we share African Elephant Specialist Group’s (IUCN Species Survival) opinion according to which the capture of live elephants from the wild does not have any direct benefit for the in situ-protection of elephants as requested by the respective CITES regulation.
We support stricter rules regulating the trade of live elephants, taking into consideration the findings of the following document, which was drafted by a number of concerned organisations: mainly Humane Society International (HSE) and Amboseli Trust for Elephants (ATE) for the 69th meeting of the Standing Committee of CITES, which was held in November 2017). Future for Elephants e.V. also signed this document:
In this report the situation of the animals which are captured is being investigated as well as the impact on the remaining herd.
Due to the high number of animals involved, this is not only a matter of well-being for the live animals, but it is also a question of conservation: between 1900 and 2015 alone, 1,774 African elephants were exported from the wild – 583 of them for circuses and other traveling exhibitions and 331 for zoos.
The report concludes that there is not one single facility for captive elephants – be it a zoo, circus or the likes – anywhere in the world, where African elephants, which were forcefully removed from their families can be suitably cared for. It is for this very reason that the signatories of the report demand a complete ban on live trade of elephants captured from the wild and destined for a life in captivity.
|Total number of elephants born in the wild and captured between 1990 and 2015||1.774|
exports for circuses and traveling exhibitions
(1990 - 2015)
|Exports for zoos
(1990 - 2015)
|Releases into natural environments/habitats
(1990 - 2015)
|Exports for zoos and circuses from elephant countries alone (1990 - 2015)||366 elephants|
|Exports without specifying purpose of trade
(1990 - 2015)
|Countries , with the highest number of wild elephants exported for Zoos||South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe|
|Countries with the highest number of wild elephants exported for circuses||South Africa, Namibia, Botswana|
|Destination countries with the highest number of elephants imported for zoos||China, USA, Mexico|
|Destination countries with the highest number of elephants imported for circuses||Denmark, Germany, Sweden, Poland, Italy, Norway, Monaco|
|Number of African elephants taken from the wild now living in captivity||533 elephants
thereof 465 in zoos,
68 in circuses
|Number of African elephants currently living in European zoos (especially in Germany, Spain, the UK and France)||121|
|African elephants currently living in North American Zoos||142
thereof 139 in the USA
|African elephants currently living in Asian zoos||139
thereof 80 in China
and 45 in Japan
|Other countries where African elephants currently live in Zoos||Latin America (22 in Mexico), Maghreb-countries, South Africa|
|Most African elephants living in circuses are in Europe||48
thereof 22 in Germany
|African elephants living in circuses in the USA||16|
|Average lifespan of African elephants born in zoos||17 years|
|Average lifespan of African elephants born in the wild||56 years|
|Mortality rate within the first two years of their lives of animals born in captivity||over 30 %|
|Mortality rate within the first two years of their lives of animals born in the wild||4 - 25 %|
|Mortality rate of young African elephants born in captivity in the USA||54 %|
|Approximate space an elephant would need to fulfil its natural behaviour and to keep its physical fitness||2 km2 /each elephant|
|Average space of an outside enclosures available to an elephant in a North American Zoo||Less than 4.000 m2|
|Average space of an inside enclosure available to an elephant in a North American zoo||129 m2|
|Number of elephants imported from Zimbabwe into China between 1990-2015 (according to CITES records)||35|
|Number of elephants imported from Zimbabwe into China since 2012 (according to media reports)||63
30 in Dec 2016
|Other elephants imported from Zimbabwe into China since 2012 (according to media reports)||29 in Dec 2016
27 in 2015
8 in 2012
(at least nine of which died in the meantime)
|Number of elephants imported from Swaziland into the USA – zoos - (March 2016)||17
(2 of which died in the meantime)