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How should the psychological welfare of zoo elephants be investigated?

By G.J. Mason, J. Veasey

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The welfare of elephants is an enormous challenge for zoos in terms of animal husbandry, financial cost and public perception. This chapter’s aim is not to discuss whether elephants should be held in captivity: resolving this issue would involve sound data on the costs and benefits of keeping them in zoos, and reconciling the diverse ethical beliefs of different people. Instead, we review how animal welfare is assessed scientifically; discuss what is known about these various techniques for elephants; survey the evidence concerning population-level welfare of elephants in zoos; summarize the possible causes of reduced welfare amongst captive elephants; review the (disturbingly sparse) information that has been collated to test some of these ideas; and discuss what future work is needed to objectively evaluate the psychological welfare of zoo elephants.


Katie Carroll

Date 2008
Publication Title An Elephant in the Room: the Science and Well Being of Elephants in Captivity
Pages 1-49
Publisher University of Guelph
Language English
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animal roles
  2. Animal welfare
  3. Elephants
  4. Mammals
  5. psychological well-being
  6. Zoo and captive wild animals
  7. Zoos