Today is World Elephant Day 2023 so what better day to shine a light on these truly majestic animals, and their unbelievably heartbreaking imprisonment, than today?

Elephants are the world's largest land mammal and unlike any other animal living today. Both adults and children alike are fascinated and mesmerised by them, so it is no wonder that zoos so often want them in their "collections". But what does that mean for elephants?

Currently in the UK there are 49 elephants living in captivity across 11 zoos. But there is a dark side to their captivity, one that we don't see when we visit a zoo. 

Elephants do not live well in captivity, so much so that they do not breed very successfully either and their population in zoos is therefore unsustainable. 

Zoos will go to extreme lengths to force animals to breed and elephants, despite their large size, are no exception. Liz Tyson-Griffin, PhD, Born Free USA Programs Director, wrote in a recent article, the story of Chai, an elephant who was kept captive in the USA and who died in 2016. Her story is one of utter heartbreak and devastation.

Chai was forcibly inseminated 112 times in her lifetime. The process required her to be anchored by her feet and have a three-foot hose inserted into her reproductive tract. The training for her to accept this invasive procedure took two years.

When all attempts at forced insemination were unsuccessful, Chai was moved from Woodland Park Zoo, where she was living at that time, to Dickerson Park Zoo in Missouri. The move went ahead in 1998 despite the Missouri zoo experiencing an outbreak of EEHV-HD and the risk that Chai could bring it back with her.

Despite Chai being attacked and injured by the other elephants at the Missouri facility and losing about 1,300 pounds during the year she was away from her home zoo, she returned to Woodland Park pregnant.

Her calf Hansa died from EEHV-HD at just seven years old.

This is just part of Chai’s story and sadly, one that is far from unique to many elephants and other animals held captive against their will. 

Two elephants living in captivity right now in the UK are Kate and Anne. Both have equally heartbreaking stories to tell and both deserve to be heard.

But what is being done to end their suffering now?

Now, we are calling for a ban on the keeping of elephants in zoos throughout the UK.  

In 2021 reports surfaced that the government are contemplating banning the keeping of elephants in zoos as part of wider reforms on zoo licensing. Two years on and we are still waiting for this to become a reality. 

We have an online action, demanding DEFRA take immediate action and do what they have said - ban the keeping of elephants in zoos once and for all. This has now been signed by over 1000 people and you can add your name today. 

Of course, it’s not just elephants who suffer in zoos. No animal should live in a cage and be denied their freedom!


How you can help

To achieve all of this we need your help and your support. One of the best ways to support our work for animals is to join us as a Freedom Champion. You will help to show the dark side of captivity that zoos don’t want the world to see. You will play a critical role in stopping cruelty.

Your monthly donation will fuel campaigns against cruel captivity, help us investigate zoos and lobby for change. It is when we all come together that we can make a difference and the stakes could not be higher, we are fighting for the lives of animals so they can live in peace, away from exploitation, harm and captivity.

Throughout August, if you join us as a Freedom Champion you will also receive a free eco-cuddly elephant as an extra special thank you! 

So please, join us today and help fight for a future that is free from exploitation, harm and captivity.

  • Sign and share our online actions 


  • Join us as a Freedom Champion 


  • Join us on social media 


Thank You!