23rd June 2021

Reports have surfaced of the government's intention to prohibit zoos from keeping elephants, as part of wider reforms on zoo licensing. Elephants suffer greatly in captivity, developing debilitating illnesses such as arthritis and mental illness. According to the RSPCA, the average lifespan of an elephant is 17 years, compared to over 50 years for those who live in the wild.

An unknown government source told the Daily Mail:

Once the current load of elephants die out we will say you can't replace them. It's impossible to keep them in conditions where they are happy, the space is too small. [...] It's very likely we are going to say you can't make elephants happy in zoos, we should instead be focusing on elephant conservation in areas that have elephants.

However, in later correspondence to The British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums (BIAZA), Zac Goldsmith played down rumours of plans to ban the keeping of elephants in captivity:

[...] Defra has no plans to ban the keeping of elephants in UK zoos. However, as you know, the government commissioned an extensive piece of work to examine the conditions in which elephants are kept and to make recommendations as to if and how those conditions can be approved.

He also said:

The Government will respond [to the report] early next year. At this stage, I do not know what the recommendations are likely to be but I have assured the [UK Zoos Expert] Committee [...] that the government will take those recommendations very seriously.

There are currently 50 elephants held captive in 11 UK zoos. Pressure is mounting to bring in such a ban, that would provide a great milestone in the phasing out of zoos altogether.

Sadly, on Friday 18th June, 12 year old M'Changa, an elephant held at Noah's Ark Zoo Farm in Somerset died after an incident with another elephant in his enclosure. M'Changa's tragic death once again highlights why elephants should not be in zoos.

Freedom for Animals will be following developments very closing and will continue to campaign against keeping elephants and other animals in captivity.

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