Conservation, Planet

Elephants in captivity

Last week, the Born Free Foundation announced a new campaign – to take elephants out of UK zoos.

Whenever I write about conservation on the blog, I’m always torn about whether I should stick to my ‘theme’ and only write about marine species.

But there are a whole host of animals out there that desperately need protecting, and I really believe that the more voices that are sharing these messages, the better.

One of these animals is the elephant.

Poaching is a huge threat to these gentle giants and some would argue that if they’re not safe in the wild, then perhaps a zoo is the best place for them.

Not so.

Elephants are intelligent and highly social, travelling many miles each day with complex family groups – just like humans.

In captivity, elephants are often kept in relatively small enclosures and cannot form such bonds, placed either alone or in unnatural groupings. Just like orcas and whales in sea parks, elephants are too large, and too intelligent to be kept in small pens like this.

The reason Born Free’s new campaign has hit home for me is because of a childhood memory I have from London zoo (who thankfully no longer have elephants).

I remember visiting with my parents when I was very young, but the only animal I distinctly remember seeing is an elephant.

The reason this memory is so vivid is because, even at that age, I was struck by how little space they had and how sad they looked in their concrete enclosure.

Contrast that memory, with the awe and excitement of catching a glimpse of them in the foliage in Kenya while at the end of a group safari and, quite honestly, there is no comparison.

These photos may be blurry but I clearly remember how excited we all were to have finally spotted elephants on the hillside, even if they were far away.

Even our guide was thrilled.

I will never forget how amazing it was to see these animals in the wild – and why they should stay there.

To find out more about Born Free’s campaign and how you can take action, visit

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