About Us

Elephants in zoos live anonymous lives. Day after day, the zoo-going public stops for a brief look, unaware of the secret suffering elephants endure. Thanks to In Defense of Animals' efforts, the housing of treatment of elephants in zoos is the subject of growing national debate, with literally thousands of news articles and television reports dedicated to this subject over the past few years.

To date, eighteen zoos have closed or plan to close their elephant exhibits, including major institutions like the Bronx Zoo and zoos in Detroit, San Francisco and Chicago. And, eleven zoos have placed a total of 14 elephants at the two U.S. elephant sanctuaries.

IDA's captive elephant campaign raises public awareness about the plight of elephants in zoos and circuses, and is a powerful force for dramatic change in the care and housing of captive elephants in the U.S. IDA's multi-pronged campaign includes several major components:

  • Obtaining medical records for elephants in every public zoo in the United States. These records provide a shocking window into the poor health and terrible suffering of elephants as a direct result of the deficient conditions in which they are held in zoos.

  • Compiling the annual Ten Worst Zoos for Elephants list, which each year, garners broad coverage in media across the nation.

  • Acting as a watchdog for zoos failing elephants and as an advocate for the transfer of elephants, such as Billy at Los Angeles Zoo or Lucky at San Antonio Zoo to sanctuaries.
  • Operating an Elephant Task Force of concerned citizens who are the eyes, ears and voice of IDA in their community, documenting conditions at local zoos and circuses, and educating the public about the plight of elephants there.

  • Coordinating International Day of Action for Elephants in Zoos, to increase public awareness as a critical first step to making the change we seek for captive elephants in the U.S.

IDA advocates for an end to elephants in circuses, and for closure of barren, cramped and unnatural zoo exhibits. We look forward to the day when all captive elephants are held in conditions that allow them to thrive: large, spacious preserves that offer hundreds to thousands of acres of natural habitat over which elephants can roam, socialize and live the kind of life that nature intended.