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Born Free USA Blog

Born Free USA Blog

Elephant welfare is more interesting than Brangelina and Jessica Simpson

Published 08/18/09
By Monica Engebretson, Senior Program Associate

On a recent plane ride while other passengers were reading their In Touch and OK magazines to get the latest scoop on "Brangelina," I was reading the Animal Welfare journal ...

Now I know you're thinking ... I'm incredibly strange or incredibly boring, maybe both, but hold your judgment.

I did read some pretty interesting facts about zoo elephants.

I'll share the highlights.

A scientific review regarding the keeping of Asian elephants in zoos revealed that the costs of keeping Asian elephants in zoos "ex situ" captive costs (i.e., the costs of keeping elephants in captivity) is ten times greater than "in situ" conservation costs (the cost of keeping them in the wild). In other words, for every one Asian elephant kept in captivity ten could be protected in the wild.

The review also revealed that adult female Asian elephants and African elephants in zoos have shorter lives than in protected wild populations. Adding to that, the review pointed out, captive elephants have low breeding rates in captivity. And infant mortality in captive Asian elephants is especially high. So high that the researchers list "being born in a zoo rather than in the wild" as a "risk factor."

I'm not kidding. For Asian elephants, being born in a zoo is a "risk factor." They said it. Not me. I'm just inclined to agree based on the evidence.

Also of note, the researchers commented that one likely reason for the higher death rate and lower birth rate is stress — specifically they stated that, "zoo elephants are subject to treatments known or likely to elevate stress, such as chaining and translocation."

Hummm ... chaining and translocation are stressful ... wonder how circus elephants would fit into this picture ...?

Anyway, I could go on but I'll stop there. Wouldn't it be great if the popular magazines would share just a little bit of this sort of information with the masses and help people learn that the best place for wild animals is in the wild.

I think this information is at least as interesting as how Jessica Simpson lost 10 pounds in 10 days or whoever's weight is the latest tabloid obsession.

Don't you?

Maybe I'm not so strange or boring after all.

Blogging off,


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