Animal Defenders International


Animal Defenders International

Horror at new elephant enclosure

Posted: 5 August 2010. Updated: 5 August 2010

Animal welfare experts have criticised plans to introduce up to 10 elephants to a zoo.

Leading groups including the RSPCA, Born Free Foundation, Captive Animals’ Protection Society and Animal Defenders International (ADI) all have grave concerns about the proposed elephant enclosure earmarked for Noah’s Ark Zoo Farm, near Bristol.

The zoo, which was expelled from the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums (BIAZA) in December because of its relationship with a circus*, said it had planning permission for a new area in which it intends to house 10 elephants and establish a breeding programme.

The welfare of elephants in captivity has long been cause for extreme concern and the organisations have already made their position against the practise very clear.

Studies show the animals often develop lameness, obesity and behavioural abnormalities when kept in zoos as well as having a far shorter life-span and higher infant mortality rate than wild elephants.

An RSPCA-commissioned report released in 2002 revealed such shocking welfare problems that a campaign to phase out elephants kept in European zoos was launched. Several UK zoos have already stopped keeping elephants, including London Zoo, Bristol Zoo, the Welsh Mountain Zoo, Longleat Safari Park, Dudley Zoo and Edinburgh Zoo.

RSPCA senior scientist Dr Ros Clubb said: “It is clear elephants do not fare well in zoos and we believe it would be highly irresponsible to introduce yet more of the animals to such a damaging environment. They are highly intelligent and sensitive animals. In the wild they will range over tens of kilometres of land a day, exploring and foraging for food.

“We remain to be convinced that any European zoo could provide a suitable environment for these and other behavioural needs and have urged Mr Bush, the Director of Noah’s Ark Zoo Farm, not to proceed with his proposals.”

Tim Phillips, Campaigns Director for Animal Defenders International, said: “Elephants are recognised as one of the species most negatively affected by captivity, because of their space, environmental and social requirements. The climate here exacerbates almost all of the welfare problems they endure which include arthritis and having to be kept indoors for extended periods. To bring elephants here would condemn them to a life of suffering.”

Chris Draper from Born Free Foundation added: “Clearly, matters are made worse by the Zoo Farm’s stated intention to breed which would perpetuate the keeping of this species in unacceptable captivity for decades to come.”

Craig Redmond, Campaigns Director for the Captive Animals’ Protection Society, said: “Zoos are unsuitable places for any species, but particularly so for elephants, which is why so many zoos in the UK and USA have stopped keeping them.

“CAPS’ investigation of Noah’s Ark Zoo last year, which revealed its relationship with a circus and the death of an adult tiger and all her cubs at the zoo, raises serious concerns about how it would house and handle elephants. We are additionally concerned about the future fate of elephants and whether any would be passed on to circuses.”

Notes to editors:

  • *BIAZA expelled Noah’s Ark Zoo Farm in December 2009 ‘due to a refusal to provide BIAZA with information when requested and entering into an arrangement with the Great British Circus, which contravenes the Animal Transaction Policy, despite having been warned of possible consequences. Council believes that the behaviour of NAZF has brought the association into disrepute and that there has been a breakdown of trust between BIAZA and NAZF, and this has unfortunately resulted in a parting of the ways.’
  • RSPCA commissioned research by Oxford University scientists, released in 2002, found widespread welfare problems in European zoo elephants. The report can be downloaded at
  • Follow-up research into elephants in zoos was released in 2008, funded by Defra, RSPCA, IFAW and BIAZA. Scientists from the University of Bristol visited all UK zoos with elephants. The full report is available at .
  • A scientific study published in the prestigious journal Science in 2008 found that female elephants in European zoos live far shorter lives than one would expect: African zoo elephants die at 17 years old, on average, compared to 56 years in elephants living in Amboseli national park in Africa; Asian elephants live an average of 19 years compared to 42 years in a Burmese timber camp.
  • There were 13 zoos in the UK with 69 elephants (35 Asian elephants and 34 African elephants): Belfast Zoo, Blackpool zoo, Blair Drummond Safari Park, Chester Zoo, Colchester Zoo, Howletts Wild Animal Park, Knowlsey Safari Park, Paignton Zoo, Port Lympne Wild Animal & Safari Park, Twycross zoo, West Midland Safari Park, Whipsnade Zoo and Woburn Safari Park.

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